Where will you be when you are old? With your family? Your fiends? Alone? Will you be rich? Or poor? In good health? Or ill perhaps? Will you be mentally engaged? Or failing up there in some frightening way? How, and with whom, will you while away the hours of the day?
I have been reading articles this week about the elderly Koreans who gather at a McDonald’s in Flushing, Queens to spend time together, to provide one another company. To come in from the heat, the cold, the wind, the erain, the snow. They might buy large coffees and sip them for hours. They might get kicked out by the police, to whom the management has complained because they view these elderly people as interlopers, as loiterers.
It’s a business they say, put up or get out. It’s a business they say, not a meeting house. It’s a business they say, not a public park with benches on which to sit and chat with passersby.
It’s a business they say, not a living room, not a house, not a home. Pull out your wallet. Eat a burger and some fries. Have a large coke, throw out your trash, then take your leave. Please.
Okay. It’s a business. And the homeless can’t sleep in hotel lobbies. And the disenfranchised can no longer ride the subways for hours and hours and days and days. And panhandling is illegal.
And if the police come and round up all of the homeless people, and the crazy people who live on the streets because the street is home, and run off all of the lonely ones, the alone ones, the elderly ones…who tarry too long after the last sip of coffee is gone, who stay inside the atrium until just before the door is locked, who need just a little bit of contact with humanity before the sun goes down…
…then we won’t have to wonder what the elderly are doing tonight. If they are warm. Or loved. Or where their friends and family are. All we have to do is empty the trash, and ready the shop for one more day of work. Because it’s easy not to think about someone the police have kicked out…and why they loiter to begin with.
But where will you be when you are old? And do you think you will ever spend an evening wrapping your fingers tightly around a coffee cup, pretending it’s half full, when really you drank the last sip long ago?
NOTE: I first published Where Will You Be When You Are Old on January 22, 2014 in My Favorite Conversations on my blog on Google+. It received 188 Comments, 18 Shares and 97 Plus 1s, and resonated with so many people that it remains one of my favorite conversations on Google+. I wanted to preserve it here, unfortunately without the comments.