I have to admit that I am guilty of a number of preconceived biases, especially about the way young people dress and behave nowadays.
Of course, I seem to forget that only a few decades ago our parents and grandparents said the same about us, when we were young, complaining about our long hair, loud music, late-night partying, swearing, and smoking too much.
What especially bothers me are those youngsters, and some not so young, parading rings in their noses, lips, belly buttons, eyebrows, cheeks, even tongues, and the awful tattoos on hands, arms, and legs, or on their shoulders, not to mention those possibly hidden on body parts only shown to the chosen ones.
Some tattoos are, at least, tasteful, but others are atrocious, provoking, mean, and disgusting.
Nothing aggravates me more than seeing young mothers, often gracious and beautiful, pushing an expensive baby carriage, with a child looking like an angel, only to display the newest tattoo designs on their shoulders, backs or feet. It makes me wonder what their husbands, boyfriends, or parents think.
I often asked myself how will these young mothers tell their daughters or sons, a dozen years later, not to go with the latest fashion craziness, when the children will look at the carvings and piercing the mothers display, and want to do the same, or more?
All these thoughts run through my mind a few days ago while watching a disturbing report on the nightly news about a huge fire, which had engulfed a retirement house in Kelowna.
It spreading so fast as the fire brigade was on its way, leaving a number of elderly and disabled seniors trapped in their apartments, unable to get out.
And suddenly something unexpected happened.
Two young men in their late teens or early 20s appeared from nowhere, bare-chested and wearing shorts—tanned like people who do nothing the whole day but go to the beach—and with their bodies full of the tattoos I so much despise. Without saying one word, they jumped in the inferno and carried the seniors out to safety.
The last one, in a corner suite, was a 92-year old man. He was pushed out in his wheelchair, but refused to leave, insisting on going back to save his two cats.
As the black smoke was filling the corridors, the two young men crawled back on hands and knees in spite of the danger of suffocating, and soon they were out with the pets. The old man was crying and hugging the cats, while the two walked away like it was nothing special.
I have no idea who they were, and I saw nothing in the reports, but it should not matter.
Afterward, I wondered aloud if I would have done the same in my youth, with or without tattoos, endangering my life to save a number of seniors and their pets, for no other reason other than it was the right thing to do. Probably yes, but one never knows.
And now, I feel kind of awkward about my earlier generalizations about everyone looking awful in my eyes. Perhaps behind the piercings and tattoos, there is often a brave soul and a warm heart. Perhaps, there is potential great scientist, or a musician, a computer genius, even a future fireman, dealing with his or her youth challenges in a way unknown to us only a generation ago.
And perhaps I should be less opinionated, and, as the old saying goes, not "judge a book by its cover".
Jack Chivo is a retired journalist who lives in West Vancouver.