Protesting While Elderly
I cut my protesting teeth in the late 60’s early 70’s at demonstrations, to all appearances then, strident and earnest. Now, in cynical retrospect, the increased chance of getting laid was no hindrance.
But that was then and this is now. My better half and I have attended some meetings to raise our political consciences and, last weekend, a stirring assembly of around 80,000, to protest for social justice and the Affordable Care Act. She has remained much more involved than me, my issue now being a general call for relief from trump and his minions.
Today, Valentine’s Day, I accompanied my Sweet to a small protest at the local office of one of our Senators; a quick and dirty affair to communicate our dissatisfaction with his support for the repeal of Obamacare. My intention was to lend moral support. There had been no further briefing.
There are, unfortunately, certain hurdles and challenges to the whole protest process when you have reached our stage in the game. First, there is an ongoing need for restrooms; frequent needs; abundant restrooms. After finding a parking garage and hurriedly- oh, I forgot, retired folks have some fleeting acquaintance with being on time — exiting out into the city, we decided to hit a restroom. Downtown library, main branch, interesting bathroom experience, always.
Arriving at the protest site, there was a crowd milling around the entrance to a non-descript office building. My Valentine quickly started greeting people known only to her. I finally saw one of the few guys there, free on a Wednesday afternoon, another elderly perk, and started a chat. He seemed to be struggling with a shopping bag so I offered to relieve him from his burden. He unloaded it on me, directing me to a woman in a lab coat who seemed to be in charge, informing me that it was hers. The crowd waved Valentine’s Day themed posters and some clutched bouquets of flowers. My elderly mind started to cloud.
Suddenly the crowd moved forward. I handed the bundle to the lab coat woman. “Here, I guess this is yours,” I offered.
“Well, aren’t you going to carry it for me?” she responded.
As an elderly fellow with the curse of manners, I automatically complied. We swept into the building, me, suddenly at the forefront of the ranks, at the dawn of some campaign I was totally unprepared for. My Dearest remained outside on the steps with the remainder of the crowd that was not entering the building.
I filled an elevator with about 10 of my fellow protestors. An attempt at humor: “I’m just here to see my accountant,” flopped. Suddenly we were exiting and moving down the hallway, a sort of raggedy assed lynch mob, an ill formed posse, of which I was an inadvertent member.
Suddenly a woman exclaimed, “Aren’t the rest of them coming too.” I turned quickly to see the empty hallway behind us. “I hope my wife doesn’t have to bail me out,” said the guy who had foisted the shopping bag on me. I moved more into the crowd.
We reached the good Senator’s office door, knocked and were confronted by two slightly bleary-eyed interns. Kudos to them for holding their own when confronted with a crowd of vaguely threatening, Valentine and flower carrying seniors. The woman in the lab coat started her plea for the continuance of the ACA, and stated that we were there on Valentine’s Day to offer tokens in remembrance of lost loved ones, mostly victims of unavailable or unaffordable health care; our cards, letters, flowers and what not. After she finished her impassioned speech, I was summoned forward to present the bundle in the shopping bag I had been holding that had been collected from the crowd outside.
I was stunned into silence, victim of sudden bathroom urges and the complete lack of preparation for my hastily assigned duties. I offered some sort of vague, Roman Catholic-like supplication as I presented the bag to one of the interns; mumbling, bowing, breaking into a surreptitious version of the pee pee dance.
As I headed back into the gauntlet, a person I would describe as being the height of Danny DeVito, presented a Doctor Seuss –like bird nest of purple hair under my nose. “Don’t I know you from somewhere, she asked, studying my face. We elderly have met so many, the faces melt together.
I let myself be swept back with the exiting crowd, imaging that she was mistaking me from some college SDS meeting or Crime stoppers. Back outside we headed back to the library to stand in the now reformed protest crowd, pee pee dancing in an orderly line in front of the restrooms.
Oh, one more elderly-related protest challenge. My Love tried to remember the floor we had parked on while I tried to remember which parking garage. Mission accomplished.