So…it all started on a Tuesday morning, which wouldn’t be worth mentioning except it was a Tuesday after a long weekend and therefore basically a Monday. Post-weekend mornings are always emotionally charged, but this one was particularly so because it followed in the wake of the Brexit vote.
I preface this story with these seemingly mundane details because they’re the only explanations I have for how a minor inconsideration turned into…
Well. You’ll see.
It happened on a rickety bus, swaying its tired passengers against each other and cramming them tighter as each new swell of commuters climbed aboard. Seats filled, aisles filled, frustrations filled.
At one point, there was a fair bit of shuffling as someone rose and (with visible relief) squirmed out to the street. The vacated seat was quickly occupied by the nearest passenger: a young woman with neatly tied hair, who heaved onto her lap a bulky leather bag. It was scrawled with a company name that consisted of an ‘&’ surrounded by two pompous surnames, signifying she worked for either a law firm or a funeral home. I assumed the former.
As she settled into the next leg of the arduous journey, a voice rose above the fray.
“…need more respect.”
There was no question where the speaker—a lady who seemed likely to prefer the term “baby boomer” to “older”—was directing her opinion.
The young lawyer looked up. “I suppose you want to sit,” she said.
The boomer implied her agreement with a slight humming noise.
But the young lawyer didn’t budge, and it’s worth mentioning her reply was laced with genuine curiosity. “Is it not sufficient you’ve stolen my future? You want my seat too?”
“Well,” the boomer said. “I do have priority.” It was difficult to place her on time’s spectrum. In an overblown way, she could have been considered beautiful, although she carried two purses and a regal air reminiscent of Miss Piggy (if that insatiable Muppet had ever aged).
The young lawyer tilted her head to one side, as though marveling at the need to explain her position. “Priority seating isn’t a law.”
“It’s a courtesy.”
“Protecting the economy and the environment would have been a courtesy.”
The boomer straightened. ”I beg your pardon?”
“I don’t think your generation has ever had to beg for anything.”
The boomer’s eyes darted around furiously, searching for some form of escape—but there was nowhere to go. “Why are you attacking me for the actions of my entire generation?” she asked. “I’ve never personally done anything to you. I don’t even know you!”
“What two soldiers in opposing armies have any direct quarrel with each other?”
“Opposing armies?” The boomer lacked the sincere intrigue of the young lawyer and her question came off as almost incredulous at finally being confronted with the inevitable.
The other passengers listened intently to the inter-generational warfare; a few appeared to be taking mental notes.
The young lawyer sighed heavily and spoke with a tone so matter-of-fact, she could have been sharing a recipe for Eton Mess. And in a way…she was.
“You belong to a generation with an entitlement complex and little more than a theoretical understanding of hardship. You’ve watched your property values skyrocket as though it’s entitled profit. Like children, you look at everything around you and believe ‘that’s mine too,’ as though yours is the only generation to exist. What a shock it will be when you finally discover you’re nearing extinct—”
Suddenly, the bus jolted to a stop, once again flinging passengers into their neighbors. The boomer gripped her handrail tightly, determined not to let her pant leg even graze the young lawyer’s knees. However, her efforts were thwarted when the lawyer lifted her cumbersome bag and stood up.
“This is my stop,” she said, with barely a glance at the boomer. “Enjoy the seat.”
But the boomer didn’t. And nor did anyone else. It remained empty for the remainder of the journey, like a memorial to the battle fought in its place.