Matt Heath: Old coots should share wisdom - not anger

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Grumpy Baby Boomers ought to have respect for youth of today.

Put a cheese cutter on your head, potter around and share your wisdom - not your anger. Photo / Thinkstock
Put a cheese cutter on your head, potter around and share your wisdom - not your anger. Photo / Thinkstock

I got into a fist fight with a 75-year-old man the other morning. Not the coolest thing I have ever done. But he started it.

I have a huge amount of respect for the the elderly. The question is do they have any respect for those younger than them? It seems to me too many Kiwi males get unreasonably grumpy with age.

You only have to listen to talkback to hear angry old men complaining about young people. Baby boomers would have us believe that everyone under 35 is a lazy piece of entitled crap who should be thrown in prison.

This despite statistics suggesting young people work longer hours, take fewer sick days, commit fewer crimes, get less from the Government, and behave better than any other post-war generation.

Imagine the 20-year-old of today turning up at a 1970s rugby club. There's no way they could keep up. Binge drinking, arse pinching, buddy bullying and fighting on levels we can't hope to reach in 2014.

To the 1970s man Indian accents were so funny they made whole TV shows about them, and if you rolled your car drunk-driving a cop would help you tip it up the right way and send you on your way.

I am not saying these things were bad. Just that baby boomers went really hard on a Saturday night. Now the generation who partied like none before or since live to slam the young for being young.

Which brings me back to my inter-generational fist fight. It occurred at 4.30am in central Auckland. I was riding my recently refurbished BMX 2000 Ltd to work. There were no cars about so I was reliving my youth with a kerb jump on to a main road.

Suddenly a 75-year-old man jumped out and yelled "put a bloody helmet on your head you idiot". "Get out of the way you old coot," I politely requested. I'd never used the term "coot" before. Turns out it's an aggressively territorial North American bird.

The next morning I lined up my kerb jump again, and this time the old coot ran at me waving his arms. "Put a bloody helmet on your head or I'll break your bloody neck ... and get a job." He was like some kind of mystical beast. A hunched troll mixed with a prune. "Old coot," I yelled. "I'm a gainfully employed father of two," and pedalled off.

The following day I rode beside him just out of his reach as he tried to knock me off my bike. I asked the old coot why he was so angry? He told me it was because of "the nanny state, entitled children running the world, PC gone mad, rates, Len Brown" and a bunch of other talkback cliches. "Old coot," I said, "it's a nice day, you have your health, it's going to be okay".

That's when the old coot landed a left hook to my ear. In an incredibly ironic move, the coot who had hassled me for not wearing a helmet had punched me in the head.

He'd gone too far. I jumped off my bike and grabbed him. "Did you escape from a f@#%ing mental hospital?" I inquired. He told me he worked for the council. I was angry now. "Coot!" I screamed. "I'm bigger, younger and stronger than you. Do you really want to fight me?" The old man sighed a deep sigh, looked down and said "no".

I didn't want to fight either. I have too much respect for the old. So I made him apologise and sent him on his way.

He had fallen into the baby boomer trap of being a grumpy old bastard. Harbouring an illogical hatred of those younger than him. But we worked through it together and now the old coot and I are friends.

This whole thing never needed to happen.

My dad has rolled past 70 with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. He embraces entertainment and technology with a passion. I've never heard him complain about anything or anyone. If all baby boomers were like my dad, talkback would be out of business.

Ageing doesn't need to be a bad time for the rest of the world. There is a more honourable path for old men. Put a cheese cutter on your head, potter around and share your wisdom - not your anger. Respect your youngers and maybe, just maybe, they won't cut your super.

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- NZ Herald

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