Mexicana AirlinesAt first I thought she was wearing a fright-wig, but it was just her natural hair-do. She had that industrial strength body that, as lunky as it was, had carried her along for sixty years. She was wearing baggy black slacks, a yellow and green polyester shirt, and worn black-and-white running shoes.
We were waiting to depart and I noticed she was involved in an altercation at the desk. Her eyes were bugging out and she yelled, for all to hear: "I'm an old lady. I've lost my ticket. Why don't you let me on the plane. Why must you do this to me?"
She didn't speak any Spanish, so the Mexicana representative, a polite young man, was at the disadvantage of trying to reason with this fast-talking harridan in a foreign tongue. Ms. Flushing (her luggage identified her as being from Flushing, New York) would not take no for an answer. She was going to get on the plane, and until they said yes, she wasn't going to shut up. They cited security, they cited the rules, they cited the late hour. They might as well have been talking to a stone.
That "Why must you do this to me" got to me. I thought that was reserved only to my mother --- I didn't know that others enjoyed using it as well. That's what she said when we kids were, as she put it, "being naughty." In fact, except for the Medusa hairdo, the Adidas shoes and a voice mellowed by dozens of years of cigarettes, this might have been my mother. Also Mumsie wouldn't have bothered to yell at the desk clerks --- she would have yelled at the president of the airline.
And don't you know it: Dragon Lady won. She just kept at it until they caved in. The held the goddamn flight with the other eighty-three of us for an hour so she could get her ticket, get checked through security and into her seat --- and then they gave her a place in first class making us confirm yet again that old wheeze about the wheel that squeaks the loudest getting the most grease.
I caught myself thinking that the old witch was lying? I'm convinced she never had a ticket at all, just made up a story which she carried through to the end, making herself such a pest that they surrendered, she got on the flight, cadging a free ticket and champagne from Mexicana. That lady had what they call in Mexico "bolas;" in English, "balls."
Ms. Flushing should, I am now thinking, should be an inspiration to all of us. She got what she wanted, and did it by contravening the standard view of the aged: that we are obsequious, eager to please, don't rock the boat.
Our children --- now fully grown --- ask for another loan. Why not? We'll be checking out in a few years, anyway. We were lousy parents, always figured we were blowing it. What are we going to do with that tiny IRA anyway? Fritter it away on golfing shoes?
Then our children come by and park their kids with us (age 10, 7 --- and one with a bad case of the Terrible Twos). And because we are loving grandparents and because we were such lousy parents, we find ourselves feeling grateful that they are even trusting us with their kids.
And, eventually, one day they decide to ship us off to the Sunnyland Geezer Ghetto and we'll go without a whimper, signing over the house. They hand out the obvious lie: "You'll be so much happier with your own age group" (even though we detest our peers; we'd rather be searching for land-mines in Afghanistan). "There'll be excellent nursing care, they have bingo every night, and you won't have to bother cooking any more" despite the fact that cooking was about the last of the pleasures that we could manage.
We've thus always been passive-aggressive, but now we have a new leader --- an old hag from Flushing with her hair all over the place, badly rouged cheeks and finger-nails painted fire-engine red and she won't take shit from anyone. She stomps, she cries, she shouts: I want to be on that plane...now!
The AARP should erect a statue to her, yes? Right there in the middle of the airport: a life-like statue of our Lady of the Dewlaps, rearing back, all five-foot-
one of her, cigarette jammed in her mouth, eyes squinting through the smoke, fist coming down squarely on the counter, telling the world, "I may be old but I can still raise hell, so don't fuck with me."
A statue with, perhaps, a set of speakers in the base, repeating again and again, "Why must you do this to me?"--- Carlos Amantea