College Times Investigates: The Mid-Twenties, Quarter-Life Crisis

Old age – It’s lousy. It creeps up on you without you even realising. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that people don’t really like talking about it.

When heard of an elderly hermit living in rural Galway, our reporters were sent to investigate.

Unfortunately, our presence was met with some hostility by the locals. “Your kind isn’t welcome here” exclaimed one elderly farmer sporting a flat cap, pipe, and walking stick. We later approached one of the local children – Dearbhla age 6 – who we had hoped might be less inhibited by what had apparently become a taboo topic of conversation amongst the natives. When asked what she knew of the hermit, she replied “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on”.

At this point, we were just about ready to close our investigation.

On our way back to the station, we passed a primary school where some youths were drinking a bottle of Micky Finns outside the gates. We decided to approach them in a last-ditch attempt at finding some truth.

“Hermit? You mean Old Man McDermott?” Old Man McDermott, or Conor to give him his Christian name, has gained infamy in his local parish since turning 26 last week.

“Ah I’ve heard stories about him” one of the group members informed us, visibly perturbed by our line of questioning.

“I heard that he still owns an iPod” another member added, amused.

“He still texts people, I heard. Doesn’t even know what WhatsApp is!” whispered another.

The group kindly directed us to Old Man McDermott’s cottage on the edge of town.

Apprehension began to set in as we ambled up the garden. The long grass and nettles that lined the path screamed of a man who no longer had any regard for lawn maintenance.

We knocked at the door. The man that answered cut a sorry figure. Pale and unshaven, he sported an orange dressing gown which smelled faintly of Lynx Africa and Fanta Orange.

“Ya?”, he muttered suspiciously.

After explaining the reason behind our presence, he agreed to let us stay.

Just then, an unexpected breeze lifted up the hermit’s dressing gown.  A look of pleasant bewilderment was etched on his face. Unashamed by what had just happened, he led us inside.
The faint sound of golden oldies wafted through from the kitchen as we entered the hall. “Ah”, a sentimental grin spread across his face. “Sandstorm by Darude. A classic”.

We made our way into his living room. A laptop was open on his coffee table. We were startled as Conor hurried past us across the room to snap it shut. He moved surprisingly well for an old-timer. When asked why he seemed on edge, he informed us that he had just finished looking at pornography. However, a brief glimpse we snatched moments before he shut it, informed us of something much more unsettling. He had been viewing the aforementioned pornography with Windows 7. A wave of unease washed over us by his utilization of grossly outdated software.
It was clear that time had stopped moving for Old Man McDermott in 2010.

Posters of old musicians and television shows adorned his walls. “This is S Club 7” Conor told us, pointing to one of the older posters on his wall. “They later became just ‘S Club’ when Paul left.
He continued, “This one is Nickelback – very big back in the day with their hits How You Remind Me and Rockstar. Unreal tunes”.

“Now, this was a show we all used to watch in my day”, he went on, pointing to an older poster of people standing in front of a crashed aeroplane. “It was called Lost. It was a series and it ran for 10 years or so I think, and we would all watch it every week on RTE. Do ye remember RTE? We only had the 4 channels back in the day”.

Our hearts went out to this poor old man spouting gibberish. He was once probably a respected member of the community.

He kindly agreed to show us some of his heirlooms. “Hold your horses there now” quipped Conor, as he reached a box down from the top shelf of an old bookcase. Hold your horses – it turned out Conor was full of these crazy old sayings.

Among the relics in the box was a PlayStation 2, his coveted TV with built-in DVD player, and a small animal he informed us was a ‘Fur-B’.

While not as sharp as he might have been once, there was wisdom in his eyes. “Now life; It has no meaning. Are you ready now – move to the madness. On a party night to you. We bring this groove to you”. We weren’t sure what these words meant, but they were beautiful in their own way.

It was time for us to get down to the nitty gritty. We decided to ask Conor about how he got to this point in his life.

“Getting old is a funny auld thing… it all started kind of going down hill when I turned 24. People joked that I wasn’t in my early twenties anymore. They started saying things like ‘you’re getting old now Conor’ and ‘you aren’t young now Conor’. It felt strange the morning I turned 25; I was exactly half way between 20 and 30. I got a card from my Dad. It read: ‘Happy Birthday you old bastard’. At the time I couldn’t stop laughing. It was funny coz like I wasn’t actually old.” A faint smile spread across his face. “Or so I thought”.

It was at this point that the conversation took on a darker tone. “The day after my 25th birthday is when I started noticing significant changes. It was like the universe knew I was now nearer 30 than 20. Language all of a sudden began to change. Things were no longer ‘class’ or ‘deadly’. They were ‘lit’ or ‘on fleek fam’. I didn’t recognise songs on the radio anymore. Every song now just sounds like the same manufactured generic shite sung by the same droids created in Simon Cowell’s lab. The last song I can remember really rocking out to was Ruby by the Kaiser Chiefs”.

“I soon became cut off from my friends, alienated from my family, and just fed up with the changing world around me. Most days I just sit around the house watching classic Simpsons episodes and remembering the good old days”.

These revelations began to make us uncomfortable. We hurriedly tried to change the subject.

“My younger cousins come and visit me sometimes”, told us with a rare grin. “Sean is 19 and Sinead is going on 20 and a half I think. They teach me about things like Apps and Netflix which is nice. Its not easy visiting your older relatives, I can appreciate that. Sure it feels like only yesterday I was visiting my granny and listening to her nonsense. It was actually last week… time’s a funny thing. Now the shoe is on the other foot – my foot. I wish I had been more patient with her”.

We learned a lot from our time with Conor. A product of his time, it would be unfair of us to judge him by today’s standards. We understand how and why some of the rumours have circulated around his parish. While we can confirm that his mind has begun to fail him, he poses no serious threat to those around him. Visit Conor. Listen to his shitty music and stories about days gone by and, who knows, you may be all the wiser for it. We urge people to be patient, to be understanding; to practice empathy and not cut off people who, at the end of the day, we don’t really know.