Wednesday, January 11, 2006

that generation

I'd say that almost half of the patients I work with are old-old people. Three-fourths of the next half are probably young-old people. The remainder are young people closer to my age. This is important to know because that means I have to tailor my teaching to a wide age range. I can't make technological metaphors with the old-old people. Likewise I wouldn't talk to young people about playing dominoes. It's part of my gig.

There's one old-old lady in particular who I remember from yesterday. I've been treating her since I changed jobs back in August. And like any patient, we talk about whatever she wants to talk about while I'm accessing her infusaport. Unfortunately for me she always wants to talk about my skin.

"Honey, what are we doing about your pimples?"

This is really none of her business. My attempts are always thwarted to change the subject.

I'm not really sure how to react to this because I keep thinking about it on different levels. For one, every time I see her I ask a series of questions before we initiate chemotherapy. This includes how her bowels are moving. Maybe she thinks that since I know all of her diarrhea and constipation stories, I want to share my obvious oubreaks with her, too.

Next, she's an old-old person. I know lots of old-old people who know everything about every subject. Maybe she's just in the time of her life where she wants to pass on all of her learned knowledge to those of us who have not yet earned our gray hair.

There has to be an air of diplomacy about this whole thing because this is all happening at the place where I work. This means I can't be totally honest with her. I can't just say it's none of her business. So usually I just do what I have to do and don't tarry to be social.

This is exactly what happened again yesterday. As I was walking away she was making a comment about how she should have ironed her pants better yesterday. I told her that she didn't have to get all gussied up to come see me. She made some sort of comment how you were supposed to always iron everything before you left the house. I told her that if you take clothes out of the dryer as soon as it's finished and hang them up, nobody would be able to tell the difference.

My mistake was making a young person statement to an old-old person.

She raised her voice. "I forget that you're from that generation." Then she proceeded to talk loud enough so that everybody in the room could hear her. This includes the old-old person I work with who thinks that the internet is evil.

I ignore them while they talk about spending hours of the week ironing clothes. They make fun of young people because they "don't take pride" in themselves. They talk about how young people are all the same. They decide that old-old people are the greatest in the world and isn't medicare great.

For the record I know how to use an iron. I iron stuff when I'm going someplace nice. But work? I wear scrubs; ironing them doesn't make them look any nicer. And they better be glad that they're old-old people, because if they were young-old people or young people I would have been forced to argue with them.

And old-old people aren't ready for the argument I wanted to have. And I didn't want to make them stroke. So I ignored them.

And next week when she comes back we'll go through the same routine all over agian...


Molly Jane said...

You should meet my Aunt Barbara. She's been pulling that shit since I entered what she called "your awkward years," at age 8. Good times. Nowadays, with my short hair, she says "Now what are we going to do about that hair on the back of your neck?" and "Still fighting those blackheads, huh?"

Angry Dissenter said...

You can't say it, so I will. Old people suck. That's why they're old; God is punishing them for sucking so bad. (Forgive the momentary lapse into Pat Robertson satire, but I just couldn't resist.)

The Meat Machine said...

Ohh, I volunteered at a nursing home for years. Oddly enough, this kills any sympathy you might have for them.

And if anyone asks you about your skin, just say the Lord is chastising you and look really sad.

nicole said...

I applaud you for being selfless enough to want to help others even in the face of imminent ridicule. It makes you a TRULY admirable person.

But, ever wonder if the older folks feel a TEENSY bit jealous of us dumb, young people...?