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The Article

‘Maybe I’m paranoid, but I get edgy when I see what they’re doing to smokers’ ming eugiam, quip euisim.

Every time I see the little knot of people outside the back doors of the hospitals, I get nervous.

You know the ones I mean.

The smokers—clinging to their oxygen stands, clad in their skimpy hospital gowns, shivering in the January cold, frantically puffing away.

They’re the outcasts of society, the untouchables, banished out the back door to protect the pure from the evils of second-hand smoke.

Even though I haven’t smoked for something like 55 years, I find this scary.

But it’s not because I fear lung cancer.

It’s the people that did the banishing who frighten me. The New Puritans.

Because I know them.

They won’t stop with the smokers. They’ll be after the drinkers next, And I’m among the drinkers.

They’ll be coming for me.

I’ll be among their first targets because I’ll be in my 80s by then, and they’ll want to save me from myself.

We already know that it’s people in their 80s who cause most of our medical expenses.

It’s they who are wrecking medicare by getting sick so much and taking so long to die.

We have always known, of course, that booze is bad for us all, but it’s especially injurious to people over 80, who even when sober drive like drunks, and are therefore that much more of a danger to society.

Obviously the situation calls for some kind of social action. A group called TOAD (“Terminate Over-Age Drinking”) will be formed.

Progressive establishments won’t let us in.

There will be signs: “This is an elder-free environment. If you’re over the hill, go home.”

Soon laws will appear, just as with the smokers.

I’ll go into a bar, sit down and a severe waiter will ask: “How old are you, sir?”

“Who wants to know?”

“The management. If you’re more than 85, I’m afraid I can’t serve you, and I’ll have to ask you to leave. That’s the law now, you know.”

They won’t even let us stay in the bars, unless accompanied by an adult—meaning somebody between 18 and 85—and that person will have to guarantee we won’t misbehave—sing, or tell off-colour jokes, or wet our pants, or snitch other people’s drinks when the waiter isn’t looking.

And we’ll be back to carrying fake I.D, just like we did 65 years before.

We might have used our driver’s licence, except by then it’ll probably be taken away from us as well.

And at the check-stops, the police will be on the alert for us.

You can imagine the scene. The cop satisfies himself that the driver’s OK, then he spots me huddled between two adults in the back seat.

“Who’s the old gent back there?” he asks.

“He’s with us,” say my adults.

“Get him out.”

So they drag me out and I have to breathe into the bag.

“Just as I thought,” says the cop.

“Point dot-zero-two. You’ve been into the booze. We have a lot of trouble these days with over-age drinking. They’re setting a terrible example to their youngers.”

“What’s going to happen to me, officer? Will I go to jail?”

“Heavens no, what kind of a society do you think we are?

“We’re not brutal. We’re patient, tolerant, compassionate, understanding.

“All you need is to be re-educated.”

So I’m sentenced to attend special classes, where they make me study full-colour photographs of the human stomach ulcerated by alcohol, read about the broken homes, the broken marriages, the broken bodies, the broken lives.

When it’s over, there’s nothing I need more than a drink.

But where will I get that?

If I go into a liquor store, there are pictures and signs all over the place warning against people like me.

The clerks are on guard against me.

I try to look younger but it never works.

I’d get my kids to buy it—they’ll be in their 60s by then—but it’s dangerous.

The charge is called, “contributing to the delinquency of an elder.”

So you think I’m paranoid, and maybe you’re right.

But I still get edgy when I see what they’re doing to the smokers.

We’ll be next.

You just watch.

Ted Byfield
Latest posts by Ted Byfield (see all)

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