"Look, Mom...." His side of the conversation dominated the coffee bar. His mother's side, in lower speakerphone fidelity, joined the rattle of shopping carts.
Should I say something to him, gesture to tone it down? Problem was, I was getting sucked into the conversational thread. He was having roommate problems. He was making a valiant effort to explain himself. It all felt a bit too familiar and too poignant, to complain about. In search of a napkin, I got a look at him. Desolated. He didn't need scolding from an old guy, not right now.
What did he need? More to the point, why worry about this at all?
Younger people face a very different world from mine. Baby boomers, by definition, grew up in boom times. If affluent suburban kids seem spoiled...well, they are also walking a tightrope. Those who fail to get forward momentum early in life run a bigger risk. Simply put, they face a life of roommates. Statistically flat incomes and soaring housing costs add up to just that.
Should I just say hi, how's it going? The young man had hung up now. He stared at his coffee looking lost. It's tough to feel powerless...to be independent, yet reporting in to mommy. And, that other thing, not understanding how to comport oneself in public. It must be a great skill, knowing how to offer young people a friendly nudge. Young man, here is how it's done...and I am with you.
It's easy to get annoyed with callow youth. It's much harder to be a parent. Or a teacher. Or anyone of the people who weave the young into the social fabric.
I left a tip on the table. I rolled my wheelchair toward the elevator. The young man was still sitting there. He stared sadly and silently down at the affluent, mostly older, suburbanites with their shopping carts and their lives.