I got paid today, and I only work a half-day on Fridays, so I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. I wanted to get a roast or something for dinner. It is fucking crazy out there right now: completely insane traffic and the parking lots are like a suburban version of The Road Warrior. When I finally managed to win my way into the store, it was crowded and noisy. I don’t deal particularly well with crowded and noisy, so I was concentrating on my groceries and on not slamming my shopping cart through the crowd in a desperate attempt to improve the quality of the local gene pool.
Am I making my mental state clear? I was not happy to be in that store. The only reason I did it was because I knew it would be ten times worse later on.
I was trying to keep my head down and mentally calculating my ongoing total when I suddenly heard a little old lady’s querulous tones behind me: “Young man, why are you wearing Hitler’s moustache?”
I turned around and there was this tiny little old lady clinging to her shopping cart, wool-coated, white-scarfed and bespectacled, confronting a pierced twenty-something hipster in skinny jeans, a trilby and yes, a toothbrush moustache.
He rolled his eyes at her — clearly he’d had this conversation more than once — and sneered insolently “No, it’s a Charlie Chaplin moustache. I’m bringing it back.”
Now, for the record, I don’t really like the whole Tim Brokaw “greatest generation” hero-worship, and I really have a problem with the whole default attitude in our society that treats “millenials” as spoiled self-entitled little shits. The whole clash-of-generations thing does exist, but I genuinely think it’s more of a culture-shock issue than anything else: What generation you are part of does not define your personality nor whether you’re a good person; how you act determines that.
But this little twerp was definitely not helping the stereotypes and people were starting to stare. They were watching this guy, someone clearly either so clueless or so insensitive as to think a toothbrush moustache was a good idea, be rude to an elderly lady.
But let me be clear: beyond the fact that I do think the elderly deserve respect what I did next wasn’t generational. I stepped towards the hipster and said loudly “Hey buddy, it’s a Hitler moustache: Chaplin only wore one to make fun of Hitler. And it makes you look like an absolute tit.”
People laughed at him; I actually heard a smattering of applause. He glared at me, gathered up his basket and the shreds of whatever dignity he thought he possessed, and stomped off.
I turned to the little old lady and said the only thing I could think of to make the situation better.
“Ma’am,” I said, “I’m very sorry for using the word ‘tit’ in front of you.”
She gave me a big smile. “Oh, don’t worry about it, sir. I was about to call him a lot worse than that.”
And we both went back to our shopping.