Chipping Away at Privacy
Accommodating the Limitations of Age

Municipal Callousness

When Crabby Old Lady had a hissy fit a few days ago about the Los Angeles police department ticketing an 82-year-old for walking too slowly, Ian of Panchromatica (who lives in England) popped off in a comment:

“The US is, I am afraid, the country that tells every one else about liberty, but it is the US also that seems to generate stories like this.”

Now Ian is a long-time friend from Crabby’s pre-blogging days at, and it is true that Crabby is embarrassed sometimes at her government’s unwarranted, holier-than-thou stance vis a vis other countries. Nevertheless, she was mildly ticked off about his swipe at the U.S.

Then, helping to prove Crabby’s contention that bloggers are, in general, remarkably quick to correct themselves when they have erred, Ian emailed a news story noting in his message that, “I was obviously wrong to think it couldn't happen here.”

“A woman found semi-conscious on a pavement in the early hours during a diabetic seizure was given an on-the-spot 'fixed penalty' fine by a policeman who thought she was drunk…

“’When the paramedics came, I gave them my insulin and explained I was diabetic and I tried to tell the policeman the same,’” the woman said.

- Daily Mail, 16 April 2006

[As Ian explained, a “fixed penalty” is equivalent to the U.S. “ticket.”] In this case, the victim of the mindless, municipal callousness is, at age 30, not an elder, but the principle is the same and no doubt, the fixed penalty would have been written whatever the her age.

Elders and the disabled often share similar limitations along with many of the aids and remedies - walkers, wheelchairs, voice-activated technology, etc. They also share the ignorance of the young and able toward those who are not physically “perfect”.

Is this bureaucratic antagonism toward elders and the disabled a trend in western democracies? Crabby wonders. Are these tickets and fixed penalties a warning to us to stay out of the way of the swift and the fleet?


I could be wrong, and if I am, I'm sure it'll be pointed out tout de suite, but I think our country, as compared to most other countries, on the whole, bends over backwards for the disabled. Elders are not treated that way because they're feared (everybody will get old eventually and no one wants to deal with that reality), and they have so few champions.

you know thinking about this I don't think people in general are very civil or nice to each doesn't just effect the old in my opinion...............

Isn't it nice to live in a country where such treatment (as was depicted in Ronni's posting) is unusual enough that it attracts attention? In some places, it seems to me, "society" is filled with such atrocities that a similar event wouldn't even warrant a mention. Our society is far from perfect; but, it isn't as bad as this isolated event makes it seem.

Nancy--May I respectfully disagree? Far from being a "Pollyanna", I still find that the vast majority of people want to do, and manage to do, a credible job of treating others well. Personally, anytime I have needed help, it has been freely given. I take it as my honored duty to pass it along by helping others--strangers or friends.

It's what sells, pure and simple. Had the officer helped the lady, we wouldn't be blogging about it today. It's not all wrong, it's not all right, it's life....Everywhere.

am i living in another universe? or is it just the reality of new york city? right this moment 18 grandmothers are on trial for "disorderly conduct." one is legally blind--and 91--another uses a walker, another is diabetic.

their crime? civil disobedience in protesting the war in iraq. please read my blog. thanks...

I don't know where the idea of tickets/fixed penalty payments originated, but they are a blight on us all. Mr Blair seems however to want more of what he calls 'summary justice' and there is a worrying growth in governmental authoritarian behaviour on both sides of the Atlantic.

I don't know where this will end - in the UK for example we are to have ID cards forced on us and soon all and sundry will have the power to demand our 'papers'.

Note to notdotdot:
Great point about elderphobia. Younger folks really don't want to believe it's a place they're heading. I know. I felt like that until I turned 80! But, you're so right. It's all about fear.

I've started watching out for older people so much more since reading this blog. I find time to talk to older people now, look out for them on the streets, slow down my own steps when crossing with someone who is elderly to make sure they get across all right, usually without trying to be too obvious about it.

Yesterday at the post office there was an elderly woman walking with her walker, doing all right, but I just sat in my car for a couple minutes and waited to make sure she was ok.

But it's not just elderly people - I started that way, and now am just more observant of everyone. I make sure kids don't run away from their parents and climb onto escalators,sometimes get their attention and let them know their parents are looking for them in the grocery store, notice when the clerk is tired or having a bad day and take a minute to try and cheer them up a bit.

And Naomi? You go, girl! You and those grandmas are doing the right thing. We all know it. Speaking out against this war, against the injustice towards those willing to speak truth to power, is part of our looking out for each other. Because by now we all know this government isn't going to look out for our best interests.

donna, thanks for positive feedback. as you've noted at your own blog, the direction of media does not encourage faith in our democracy either.

new york times columnist, clyde haberman, had excellent piece about the grannies today. also questioned why our very elderly DA has chosen grandmothers as a target. because big march here on april 29? stay tuned.

Over the years I've read any number of anecdotal stories about individuals for whom others, including some law enforcement, have failed to recognize a limitation in a person being encountered.

These people have included the deaf who typically don't respond to verbal commands; the extremely hard-of-hearing who mistakenly respond inappropriately and are immediately assumed to be mentally unbalanced. Of course, there are foreign language barriers for non-Eng. speakers.

Then there are those people who stutter, others who may have had a stroke or are brain injured with impulsive behaviors, some with Tourette's Syndrome, all of whom have suffered indignities.

The individual whose speech may not be clear and precise for any reason, is assumed by far too many, if not most other people, to be mentally deficient. Conversations often are immediately redirected by others to some other party with the speech impaired person, since it is presumed they won't understand.

Within the past month I was made aware of an individual working in the medical field, whose medical problems resulted in having half of her tongue removed. After overcoming all sorts of obstacles she had resumed her profession.

Her tongue had restricted movement so her speech was ever so slightly "thick" sounding, but easily understandable without others needing to ask her to repeat. Yet, when she interacted with medical superiors, especially, all of whom should know better, they immediately spoke down to her as though she didn't quite have all her wits.

She effectively followed some suggestions that she formulate a couple or three short and to the point sentences delivered up front, then launch into whatever was needed to be talked about with those medical superiors, letting them know she meant business, now wanted to get on with it.

The point of my comment is, the problem these two news stories demonstrate, is far more prevalent than most people realize. There are a lot of stories out there that have made the press, and quite a few more that haven't for those of all ages, including those of us getting older.

There is a very real need for continued increased awareness in all professions, all walks of life. Seems always some need for increased awareness and sensitivity.

What to make of all the preceding comments? At 87, I have a split personality. On the one hand, I am offended when offered help when I think I'm doing perfectly fine on my own (crossing a street, for example). On the other, there are times when I need help, and no one seems to realize (or care?) that I do.
I've solved one problem, and try to apply the principle to others that may arise - of which there are few.
It's the airplane thing. I can't bring myself to ask anyone to put my carry-on into the overhead bin, yet I'm unable to do it myself. People offer to do it for me, and I am grateful, yet embarrassed that I need the help.
My solution? Check the carry-on along with the suitcase, and, instead, put my essential car-load of pills and other basic necessities in a large soft bag (like that of a bindle stiff) to take on the plane.
Although I am perfectly capable of getting along without a cane, I carry one in an airport. People are always eager to do things for people with canes. And you should see how solicitous they become when you're in a wheel chair (used in large airports, for getting from one terminal to another).
What all this has to do with anything is anyone's guess. I just felt like chiming in.

Although I frequently am bemused by others who lament about the passing of the "good old days", remembering the "good old days" as not having been as good as these days in so many, many ways, joared points out one thing that has changed rather drastically. WIWAK (When I Was A Kid), most people were born, lived, and died within a few miles. This meant that, people knew virtually everything there was to know about one another and didn't have to explain about how their intelligence was not linked to a speach impediment; how their ability to join in the community was not thwarted by their mental and physical limitations; nor did they have to ask for help. Help showed up!! We (myself particularly included) have been so mobile during our lifetimes that we must make plain to others when we do and when we do not need help. Diplomatically, if at all possible. (I'm embarrassed to recall that I once exploded at one of the guys at work who tried to insist upon lifting heavy boxes of books for me when we moved our offices--explaining to him at the top of my lungs that at 60+ years of age, I probably knew what I could do and what I could not do!)

"...most people were born, lived, or died within a few showed up!!" Cop Car, you surely went right to the crux of the issue.

The community within all those surrounding miles knew and took care of each other. Usually, too, I think many of the younger family members stayed within the area.

Just as they could be intolerate of each other, they could also be extrememly understanding, accepting, and willing to make allowances because they knew each other's stories, limitations. Maybe the key is they simply knew each other.

We surely have spread out since then, like the ever-expanding rings from a pebble dropped in a pool of water -- from within a state to our whole country and now all over the world.

Seems like some new communities are forming in a totally new, exciting and different way within the blogosphere. These communities seem to be offering a unique blend of inclusionary elements, but that's another topic.

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