Amazon losing market share

They are. Oh, not a statistically significant market share. But they are losing a good percentage of the share that is our household, and it would surprise me if we were the only ones.

Why?

It isn’t for moral reasons. We aren’t engaging in a partial boycott. Whether we should is a worthwhile question, but it’s not like Wal-Mart, where I haven’t knowingly shopped since I borrowed bought a breast pump I knew I would return. It’s not like that chicken place with the stupid name, where I wouldn’t eat there simply because the name is too stupid, even if they hadn’t come out as homophobes.

That’s not to say that this outcome doesn’t please me. It does. Amazon needs competitors. Amazon offers numerous shopping irritants:

  • Sellers like Wal-Mart hiding behind fake names. Nothing like getting a good deal and finding out you shopped at Wal-Mart.
  • Rating system is garbage, and vendors can easily get nasty reviews removed. Vendors have nothing to lose from nasty reviews.
  • Try calling Amazon for customer service. Hell, try emailing them for it.
  • Opaque tracking system clumsy to use. Seeming delays of a week to ship while, evidently, they move stuff around their network.
  • The known truths about what a hell it is to work there.
  • Delivery vans unmarked and pretty much just throw your stuff at the porch. And that’s if your Amazon delivery guy doesn’t turn out to be your porch pirate, as happened in one case near where I live.
  • Good luck getting an Amazon shipper to combine shipping for multiple items.
  • Amazon still thinks it’s a reasonable deal to ask you to pay, what is it, $90 or so per year just so that you can get free two-day shipping on all the stuff you buy from them.
  • Worse still, Amazon nags you without cease to sign up for this.
  • Still cannot block a bad shipper. There’s one book outfit there, a horrible vendor, and they have perhaps a dozen branch operations. It’s very hard to avoid them.

Of late, I’m buying routine items increasingly on Ebay, using Amazon to help identify/select them (such as small bits of hardware; just like many people use a brick-and-mortar, then go buy the thing online). Because:

The rating system may be hugely inflated, but no seller wants a nasty feedback. In my experience, most will fall all over themselves to avoid it, provided they have evidence of dealing with a reasonable person. And if you are a complete jerk toward a seller, s/he has a different remedy toward you: s/he can prevent you from seeing their merchandise in the future. So unless you want potential vendors to go away, it is in your best interest to be reasonable.

I have several times called Ebay for customer service. Using a telephone (ask your grandparents what that was). And received it. Other good parts:

  • Tracking: either it has a tracking number, or not. If it does, you can see where it’s going. If not then not. Wow! It’s almost as if that’s the way the concept is intended to work!
  • Doesn’t use Amazon delivery, thus doesn’t lead to unmarked vans out of which people leap desperate enough to work at one of America’s workplace gulags, and who quite often look like they would just as soon turn porch pirate. And near where I live, have done so.
  • Shippers will quite often combine shipping for multiple items within reason.
  • Not everything is up for auction. Much of what’s on Ebay is fixed price. In some cases, you can make a lower offer and it will be accepted.

Today was a good example. I needed some very large manila envelopes at a reasonable price. I didn’t know what the standard size was, but Amazon was a great place to look it up. When I was serious about buying, I went to Ebay and found the same thing, about the same price. It wasn’t even a contest. I would have paid a little more to buy it anywhere but Amazon.

I bought from the platform that used real shippers, cared about my feedback, and didn’t feed a massive inventory and shipping machinery that grinds human beings to submission.

Another example, on a later day of blog post composition. My wife needed some supplies she always uses. I went to Amazon to look up what their people wanted for these supplies. When it came time to make an actual purchase, I bought on Ebay. The deal was much better.

I got a volume discount. I won’t have to deal with sketchy-looking Amazon delivery vans. Everything was better.

Do you not now see what was the point of Amazon Prime? It’s a brilliant strategy provided one is dealing with an ovine people who love the meth that is ‘free shipping.’ Get people to pay an annual fee, and they will feel compelled to shop at Amazon to take advantage of the shipping. It’s like a ‘loyalty’ card at a coffee place, except that coffee places don’t expect you to pay an annual fee and don’t propose to automatically renew you by charging your credit card unless you cancel. Amazon Prime is the worst deal going and it has the effect of roping you into acting to your disadvantage. They would not offer it, and pressure everyone constantly to sign up for it, if it were not to their profit. It is to your disadvantage.

Yes. You are advantaged by buying only what you need, and by shopping for the best value. Amazon is advantaged by you buying there even if you do not need, and by you not comparison shopping.

I never take any of those ‘loyalty’ cards because it’s obvious that their intent is to get me to shop at a given venue more consistently–and in the case of mag-strip cards, to compile a nice dossier on my shopping. The employees don’t understand why I won’t just do it to get 10% off. I explain, as patiently as is in my power, that the card’s goal is to induce me to shop there; that my goal is to shop where is most advantageous for me. Thus they have their goals and I have mine, and they are mostly opposed. I can tell by the look in their eyes that, in spite of how hard they work for what little they are paid, they never thought of that. Their eyes say what their mouths won’t: whatever, man, you should just take the discount.

I wish they would blurt that out. I might rejoin: “Has it ever occurred to you that one reason for poverty is poor attention to money management?”

The vendors have their goals and problems. The consumer does not need to own either. I don’t see the company stepping up to support my goals and they aren’t owed support for their own.

At heart, they flat do not give a damn what I think. As Amazon does not.

Somehow, I’m not supposed to adopt the same attitude.

We saw it with IBM. We saw it with M$. When a company reaches complete market dominance, it tends to stop caring what the public thinks of it.

It never quite seems to process the fact that this sword cuts both ways.

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Pediatric editing

I don’t do it.

I do not do it to be a honey;

I do not do it for any money.

I do not do it, Sam I am.

Anyone who finds me tiresome has an easy way to make me turn and run: ask me to offer feedback on a kid’s writing. I call this ‘pediatric editing.’ I won’t do it.

Does that not sound like the most heartless thing on the planet? What, Mr. Editor, you won’t help my child? What kind of monster are you? Jesus, man, just fuck you.

In fact, when I refuse, I am being very kind. When asked to perform pediatric editing, here are my choices in order from least to most abhorrent:

  1. Lie. Like a thief. Like a Turkish hand-tied rug. Like an affluenza teen, actor on the job, or professional spy. Lie and tell the kid that his or her writing, story, etc. are very good, whether they are or not. Downside: deceitful, creates false optimism, makes me hate myself and my work, with the people who asked not far behind. Upside: keeps me from potentially destroying a child’s literary ambitions; the self-hatred will pass.
  2. Refuse. Just say no. Decline to read, edit, or review the minor’s work. Downside: well, I dislike them for asking and at least it’s now mutual; I look like the horrible evil snob. Upside: I don’t have to impale a child’s literary ambitions; they’ll never ask me for that again; my integrity is intact (not that they cared about that).
  3. Do it. Carry through, providing honest critique and corrections. And since I am not a schoolteacher and am not qualified to stand in for one, and am used to working with adults, there’s an excellent chance of soul immolation simply due to the frankness of the feedback. “This literary device is childish.” “Your protagonist is dull and lifeless.” “You need elementary grammar instruction.” Downside: the self-hatred will never end; I will deserve that self-hatred because I’m supposed to be the adult and thus know when I’m out of my depth; the kid will either be crushed, or if it’s that rare kid who can handle the feedback, will come back with a rewrite looking for more. Upside: I wasn’t the snooty editor too good to help precious Kortneigh refine her elfy/vampy/wolfy urban para YA novella; Kortneigh’s parents will never speak to me again, though, so that’s a mixed benefit. There is no point doing something to satisfy people if you know it will mortify them.

I generally have a low opinion of lying, and I have an even lower opinion of hurting kids, so I go with 2). I ain’t doing it.

Ma and Pa Kortneigh have no business risking her dreams by asking me to comment on her work. It is unkind to her and to me. They should direct the question to a pediatric editing specialist: a qualified English teacher, who will probably be delighted to coach a precocious kid and who is used to pediatric writing.

That doesn’t mean I can’t help Kortneigh, though. She and her parents need to ask me the right question. That is not “Will you please review and comment on her story?” That is: “What advice would you give Kortneigh to improve her writing?”

“Why, Ma Kortneigh, I’m delighted you asked. I will be glad to help.

“First off, young lady, kudos to you for wanting to express yourself. My advice is simple yet complex: write and read.

“Write–write a lot, and write for critique. I am not qualified to give you critique because I’m not a teacher. Is there a student writing group at your school? If not, I’ll bet your English teacher would be willing to mentor you. To grow, you must have critique, and you may have to give some to get some. You will learn a lot that way.

“Read. Read good things. If you like garbage–my guilty pleasure happens to be violent westerns–no reason you can’t read it as well, but look for and note the reasons why it is garbage. Do read good work in the area in which you want to write. Do you want to tighten your writing? Read C.J. Cherryh, and you’ll learn what tight writing can be. How to craft dialogue? W.E.B. Griffin’s earlier work, though your parents should be advised of adult themes. Want to watch straight-up mastery on display? Winston Churchill. How to craft unforgettable characters and moments? Frank Herbert. I will offer you reading recommendations on any aspect of the craft.

“And when you get good, be kind.

“Best of success.”

 

Free shipping: why it sucks for you

I’m not kidding.

In the modern-day online economy, free shipping has almost become a baseline expectation. I am told that if I’m selling online, and I don’t offer free shipping, I might as well write off every customer under forty. That is tantamount to telling me that every customer under forty is innumerate.

I don’t believe that. But I do believe that some customers, at all ages, refuse to do the simplest arithmetic.

To be fair, free shipping is an acceptable deal–for one item, from one vendor at a time. To be clear: that makes it a wash, not an advantage.

(This, by the way, is the first in a new category of posts at The ‘Lancer: “Robin Hood.” I intend to use this category for public service articles meant to expose ripoffs and scams, and to suggest creative ways to make life worse for ripoff and scam artists. Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood was my absolute favorite book growing up, and over half a century later is still a great inspiration to me.)

The ripoff comes when you buy more than one item from the same vendor. The more you buy, the more you inflate the vendor’s profit. The better a customer you are, the more you suffer. The vendor counts upon you to be an idiot. He hopes you will think: if there’s free shipping, hell, why not stock up?

Let’s take a fairly common vintage baseball card as an example. Suppose it costs $1.50 with free shipping with Vendor Joe. With another, Vendor Jill, it costs $0.75 with $0.75 also for shipping. In the second case, if you buy multiple items, Jill may readily agree to combine your shipping costs to a degree. (Since this is Jill’s moment of victory, if Jill did not, Jill would demonstrate the intellect of a prehistoric fern.) Joe’s shipping charges can’t go below zero, so Jill is sure to be the better deal. No matter what, when you get this so-called free shipping, you are absolutely being charged for the freight; the cost is just relocated to the item’s price.

That card costs either vendor fifty cents to mail, but appearances drive this whole monte game. In essence, Jill charges you the fifty cents plus a modest handling fee. Jill appears petty and pecuniary and nickel-and-diming. For gods’ sake, her shipping costs as much as her merch! What does she think I am, independently wealthy? Joe looks as if he waves a magnanimous hand and throws in the cost of delivery, just to do you a favor, fagedaboudit, good ol’ Joe.

Same amount. Same shipping. Same economics–except that you like Joe better. He’s the free shipping person! And when you buy two cards, your brain may think that the more you buy, the more you save, but you can see from this description that it is the other way around: the more you buy, the more you overspend. Suppose you buy ten cards in that price range. Obviously, they cannot all be shipped for one $0.75 shipping charge, but they surely can be shipped for far less than $7.50. Since Jill has not been lobotomized, she knows it costs less than $7.50. Jill also gives you credit for not having been lobotomized, so she presumes you know this as well. So she charges you perhaps $4.00, which still covers her overall shipping plus a little extra: total, $11.50.

Joe can’t lower shipping costs below free, so unless he offers a volume discount, his ten cards cost you $15.00. And whatever his volume discount, it is unlikely to beat Jill’s simple and fair charge.

Fagedaboudit.

Why doesn’t everyone go to Jill for their bulk buys? Joe counts upon your negative emotional reaction to Jill’s method, which appears to be dinging you for every little thing à la carte. (You mean I have to pay for extra sauces?) Also, you have to ascertain in advance what her policy will be, and that requires icky work-like stuff like reading and asking her questions. There is also addition and subtraction in play, which is math, thus even ickier and difficult and wasn’t on the test. It’s all so hard, and you just want to be done! The five-second instant gratification cycle has passed! Joe is hosing you, but you like him better, because he doesn’t quibble over petty stuff like shipping charges. Bing, bang, done, oh, I have a text coming in.

It’s a shell game. Ever seen those? Pick which coconut half (or overturned bowl, whatever) the ball is under. You always win the first time, just like a monte game. Or a nearby shill steps up and ‘wins’ to make it look good. When there’s more on the line, there is no way you win because the target has been moved in a way your eye will not track.

For one item, free shipping is a wash. Take it for gospel that the vendor pays for and is being paid for the shipping, whatever shell the money is under. Beyond one item, with the same vendor, the equation is simple:

The more you shop, the more you’re milked.

Joe really, really, really hopes you will never figure this out.

Ah, but what if Jill screws you by only discounting shipping a little bit?

First, this would defeat our non-lobotomized premise about Jill, because Jill would be stupid not to know she’s dealing with someone who has figured out the shell game and has chosen her on the logical presumption of better value. Jill is honest enough not to use the free shipping ripoff. Second, and consequently, Jill knows that she has a volume customer who may buy significant amounts from her in the future–but not if she gouges on the shipping. Once that customer trusts her to keep freight charges within reason, she will be a preferred vendor.

Joe? Fagedaboudim. Jill rocks. Joe’s running game on his customers.

Free shipping: just another shell game to make people think they got a bargain when in fact it’s a wash for one item, and a ripoff for more than one.

The Hipster Nativity Scene: my holiday joy

Having grown up in a fascist religious household, in a Christian denomination in which the concept of fun received disapproving looks and frequent harrumphs, I entered adulthood mostly wishing to leave the holiday behind.

With a few spasms, that worked until marriage came along. You know how that is: it’s not just about you anymore. And as a husband, you learn quickly one of the great wisdoms of long-term marriage: don’t fuck up the women’s fun.

Sounds so simple, does it not? All you have to do is not find some creative or clumsy way to extract the fun from her world, and you’re golden? If it’s that simple, why can so many men not grasp it? Take “girls’ night” gatherings at your home. It should be obvious what you must do: make a brief appearance, offer polite and friendly greetings to the guests, and then pleasantly fuck right on off somewhere else. Yes. Do this. Off to where, though, ought one to fuck?

They don’t care.

It doesn’t matter. You are free. Sit in your office and drink beer; go to the library; hit the driving range; go out and eat guilt-free pizza; shop; watch the other TV; nap; if there are kids, lasso them into something fun. Just be elsewhere, accepting that it is not all about you all the time, so as not to impair the male-free time that the women want and need.

If you make them dinner, of course, without interrupting their fun, you’re off the charts. Same if you lasso the kids. But even the average guy can figure out how to be somewhere else. It is not all about him all the time. Sometimes he has to bend, and do so with dignified grace.

So when I married a woman who had a wonderful childhood and loved Christmas, it was time for me to learn how not to be a wet blanket about this. And in time, I came to like aspects of it (UW-themed ornaments, buying stuff for wife, overeating, supplying clever handyman solutions to adaptation and display problems, eggnog with rum) and be at peace with those aspects I might not like.

In some cases, that meant putting my own stamp on things.

Since neither of us are Christian, and since stodgy grumpiness and strife are parts of the holiday season I can do without, and since in any case there’s no historical reason to believe the attributed birth of Jesus of Nazareth occurred in December (April seems a better candidate), we can have a certain amount of fun with all this. And thus, the joy of my holidays, the funniest thing we do: the Hipster Nativity Scene. Since I’m helping them market it, I feel perfectly justified jacking one of their photos to include here:

Yes, I wrote about it last year. I live in Oregon. We recycle! Happy holidays to you all.

Perhaps a return, and migration

The ‘Lancer has been on hiatus since mid-summer. It now takes tentative steps to leave that status behind.

Those that have read regularly for some time may wish to know why. Honestly, I would rather not say; however, I feel that the owed courtesy of an answer outweighs my enormous reluctance, and I am well aware that my silence is not the expected behavior for handling distress. Most people would have hosed the whole blow-by-blow onto Facebook all along, in the modern trend of forcing the emotional finger down one’s throat in the most public possible way (being sure to take selfies). If that works for them, very well.

The more bothered I am, the more silent I grow and the fewer people I tell. This is because talking about it harms rather than helps me, and also harms those to whom I talk, none of whom deserve to hurt. It would hurt them because–as seems obvious to me–it would further harm me, and thus their reward for honest caring and kind intentions would be to see me feel worse. In some cases, they might compound that disappointment by faulting themselves for what is simply a personality quirk of mine. I care enough about my friends not to put them in a position where we both hurt more.

Basic principles: don’t ask for help you don’t want, and don’t lead people on to try and help you if your personality won’t let them succeed. Simple humanity, at least by my lights.

But just to reassure everyone, there is no terminal illness, no sudden death or disability in my world, no horrific physical injury, no marital disaster, nothing like that. Suffice to say: I have just spent this time dealing with some issues. I now begin to feel like talking once more. I hope this will suffice, and will be received with the same compassionate acceptance you all have generously shown. And for all those who follow, and did not unfollow, thank you.

What this also means is that I find myself thinking about posting on Facepalm again. For months, I have not felt like engaging the world on any but my own terms. That ruled out online forums; simple logic says if you don’t want the reactions, don’t say the things. And I then began to delete my Facebook wall postings. It felt kind of good, and I decided to keep going. In fact, I decided not to start posting new ones until I had wiped out the accumulated mass of, what, nine years of posts. I’m only done back to 2013, so I see completion as some way off, but within reach. I don’t regret it. I regret some photos and images I removed rather than hid from the timeline, but that’s it.

Onward to actual content.

A side effect of this process has been to realize that it’s time to split the sheets with Firefox. It has become turtle-slow, and bringing my outdated version current will break most of the extensions that make it worthwhile to me. Safari and Chrome are out of the question, as is Irrelevant Explorer (or whatever it now calls itself), so I settled on Opera.

This is not a simple process. Opera works differently, and in some ways I much dislike. I’m sure some of the speed improvement has to do with using fewer extensions and blockers, but maybe I didn’t need that many. The big privacy discovery was PrivacyBadger, a nifty tool that lets you block a lot of the crap they throw at you, then add them back one by one until you find the one key item that un-breaks the site just enough to get what you want. Between that, Ghostery, Disconnect, UnTrackMe, and Privacy Protector Plus, I think I’ve got this aspect where it needs to be.

I’m not sure what could possibly pierce the anti-junk armor of five different add-ins, but each one seems to catch a number of intrusions, so unless they are reporting redundantly, they’re all doing some good. The downside to Opera is that fewer add-ins exist for it. There will be compromise.

What Opera still needs in order for me to uninstall Firefox: a good weather add-in, a good reminder add-in, an easier way to block cookies from certain sites, a better bookmark menuing system, and for me to figure out the RSS feed. I guess it’ll be a long goodbye to Firefox, but not an unhappy one. One wonders if its open-sourceness and popularity led to a critical mess of clunky code. I don’t know. It and I are done now.

Now, if I can figure out how to block Google’s geolocation, that would be ideal. Right now that seems like herpes: no cure, and evidently no one even trying or wanting to try. But we’ll see.

Celebrating those unifying national traditions…by being jerks to each other on Nextdoor

For those unfamiliar with it, Nextdoor is a social media site for neighborhoods. In order to get in, one must prove that one lives in a given area. It’s another brainchild of Nirav Tolia, of Epinions fame, someone I have at least spoken with on the phone. One can see in its concepts certain commonalities, including the farming out of moderation to community leaders.

What’s Nextdoor like? You’ve all seen just how phallic people can get when hiding behind a keyboard. (If you haven’t, create a Facebook account and despair for humanity.) Nextdoor offers the same pleasures, but with a bit of a reality show vibe because you might meet these people. For those in your neighborhood, you can see their real names and addresses. There’s one lady in mine that I muted long ago, but every time I drive past her house, I think less than kind thoughts about the canine components in her DNA.

About two-thirds of Nextdoor posting concerns lost and found pets. No joke. I call it Lostcatsdoor in my mind. I sympathize with everyone who loses a pet, though I think everyone who says ‘fur baby’ needs a bucket of cold water. I never say anything about those posts, unless I think I spotted the animal in question, but at least lost pet searching is a productive purpose. It boggles my mind how so many people can be so urgently bothering deities every single day over someone else’s pet, but it’s harmless, so okay.

Right now is prime time for the most important tradition in Nextdoor’s young history: The Great Annual Fourth of July Alienation and Verbal Brawl. Ours is already in full swing, with everyone piously choosing up sides. The battle concerns fireworks, and whether they should be detonated, and what sort. Here’s a scorecard:

  • Team Pet Trauma: demands that everyone else stop celebrating because it scares their pets.
  • Team Murrica Fuck Yeah: demands that everyone stop bitching and start blasting, the more the merrier. Will set off dynamite sticks if he (it’s always a he) can find any. Would probably fire howitzer salvos if he could.
  • Team Law & Order: reminds everyone that all fireworks more interesting than a kitchen match are illegal here in Oregon, therefore everyone must be obedient. Ve muscht nicht disobey der rules!
  • Team Veteran PTSD: points out that a holiday celebrated by traumatizing the nation’s past defenders is Doing It Wrong. They have a point.
  • Team Rectum: doesn’t particularly care about the issue, just trolls people up real good. If need be, brings up politics and accuses some people of being on the wrong side. Without them, this verbal brawl might peter out.
  • Team Incendiary: dismisses all safety concerns, telling people they should sit out all night with a hose if they worry about someone else starting fires.

And every year, by this time, they are in full swing having the entire fight all over again. It’s usually even the same people. I’ve lived here for three years now. I think they look forward to it. It never seems to occur to them that if this is the way they feel about and treat each other, maybe we have less to celebrate than we might imagine. Maybe we should call it Division Day, to reflect how we really feel.

Watching people bicker over Independence Day fireworks is like watching several doctors and nurses have an all-out brawl over patient care. “No, you pill-pushing hillbilly, he does not need a goddamn MRI!” “Go soak your head in a filled bedpan! He needs an MRI and if you don’t get out of the way I will run your ass over with this gurney!” “Bring it, Doc Holliday. This scalpel will sort you out.”

I have no plans ever to be a senior citizen

No, I’m not checking out early. If I were, I’d practice far less self-denial. I expect to live a lot longer than my life choices say I should, which is unfair to people who made excellent life choices and don’t get to do so. I can’t help that.

Rather, I plan to refuse the label, ‘senior citizen.’ I hate it.

My problem is not with my elders per se, but with this prominent tumor in our landscape of euphemisms. Some of them actually warp meaning. (How is ‘bath tissue’ descriptive of toilet paper? Do you take toilet paper into the bath with you?)

Worse still, every so often, we decide that the label is not laudatory enough, and concoct a new one that kisses more ass, deviates farther from sane reality. This is grotesque. If you aren’t satisfied that your label kisses enough ass, why not just call them ‘sainted deities’ so you don’t have to keep upgrading to something gushier? I’m serious. If that’s the ultimate intent, just come up with something right now that implies they are perfect and wonderful in every way, and speech-nightstick the rest of us into using it. Take the short cut.

My grandfather, who was elderly for most of the time I knew him, referred to himself as elderly. He also referred to his clients as elderly. As a nursing home administrator, that was a lot of people. If we’re going to choose a word, I’d say ‘elderly’ is a little nicer-sounding than ‘old’ to apply to people (but only if one attaches stigma to age as a concept, which our culture definitely does). If we want a shorter single noun for ‘elderly people,’ we have ‘elders’ ready to hand. We don’t need ‘senior citizen.’ For one thing, we don’t know whether or not they are citizens, especially in my area. (I am reminded of the dumbass who lauded Nelson Mandela as a ‘brave African American.’) For another, it feels like trying to hide the reality of aging, as if the fundamental fact is stigmatizing. I do not consider that it must be so, though I must say that quite a few elderly people seem dead set on making it so by the way they treat the young people who serve them. The term seems to hint that one is afraid or ashamed to come to terms with old age, and thus now wants a new word that will let him or her pretend otherwise.

In keeping with the tradition of more laudatory euphemisms every so often, now stores and restaurants are using ‘honored citizen’ to describe discounts and menus. Gods. Does that mean that the rest of the citizens are not honored? Dishonored? What is worse, it plays into a sense of entitlement that says to youth: now it’s my turn to be a jerk and make the kids put up with it. I will become harder to please, less patient, crabbier, fussier, and expect to be catered to as though this all were my due. Oh, am I going to enjoy this. I will let my ‘too old to give a shit’ flag fly free!

Think of it as Roseanne’s Mother Syndrome.

So far as I’m concerned, this is a horrible way to age. It tells me that this person, despite all those years of experience, has missed most of the lessons. Patience? Nah. Compassion? Faaaa! Empathy? Harrumph. Kindness? Screw you, my hip hurts. Courtesy? I’m old enough not to care what people think. Smile? I’m grumpy, so forget it!

(I cannot resist a digression. My parents-in-law lived in a gated ‘senior citizen’ community in Orlando. FIL was president of the HOA, a hive of backbiting and bitchery that only his considerable retired first sergeant skills could restrain from open civil warfare. He nearly always had someone in his house complaining about someone else. Anyway, the first morning I was there, he was sitting with another old guy in the living room and introduced me. The old man scowled at me. “I’m grumpy,” he said, I decided to have a little fun. I smiled, walked up and put out my hand. “Well, nice to meet you, Mr. Grumpy!” I think my FIL smiled. And when I was gone, I suspect Mr. Grumpy did. In fact, I called him that for the rest of the time I knew him, and asked about him by that term when I talked to my parents-in-law. He’s long since passed on now, and I couldn’t tell you what Mr. Grumpy’s driver’s license said his name was.)

But back to life’s lessons. How awful is that? Not only does it mean that all life taught someone is to be a worse person, it separates one. It divides one from the youthful and middle-aged majority of society. The young will endure it, as they always have, but it will harm them for no good reason on multiple levels. In addition to the indignity of having to tolerate crabbiness they did not deserve, the young won’t get what could help them most. They need access to all that elders have learned, but they damn sure aren’t going to ask an unapproachable person. Young and old move farther apart.

It is not acceptable to me. I don’t want to be alone. One day, unless something goes very wrong very soon, I will be elderly. If my grandmother’s genetics have taken significant hold, it is theoretically possible I could spend a long time being elderly. The one barrier we can nearly never cross in perception before we cross it for real is time: at fifty-four, it is not in my power even to imagine how sixty and seventy and ninety feel. Following my own logic, maybe when I’m sixty I’ll have this huge change of heart, embrace ‘senior citizen’ for myself, become a jerk, and dismiss this post as whippersnapper stuff. I cannot know nor can I imagine. However, I think it likelier I will hold fast to a view that by then will have aged six more years in the barrel.

At the same time, if young people call me a senior citizen, or an honored citizen, or whatever increasingly laudatory baloney their employers have pressed upon them, I won’t get mean about that. Talk about someone who didn’t even read his own messages. No, I’ll just smile and be kind to the kids. Why?

I do not often raise my voice.

Because we should be kind to the kids. Because it is wise and just and proper and decent. And because anyone too stupid to figure that out in sixty or more years, including thirty spent as a young person in one’s own right, has wasted over half a century.

The young need our help, if they can view us as people rather than wellsprings of grump. They need our knowledge, our friendship, and above all, they need our support. They need us to seek to understand their world, that it differs from the one we experienced at their age, and to apply all we have learned while offering them our resilient support. I have seen elderly people who aged in this way, and it taught me a lot about how I ought to age. When they finally passed on, they left a world filled with loving kindness that had delighted to honor them and now revered their memories. They were never separate.

They did not need euphemisms. They made elderhood something to admire on its own merit.

Euphemisms are only needed when honesty simply won’t do.

Blogging freelance editing, writing, and life in general. You can also Like my Facebook page for more frequent updates: J.K. Kelley, Editor.