Friday, January 29, 2010

Geezerdom Awaits

If I hadn't already known that my 65th birthday was approaching, I could have figured it out based on the avalanche of advertisements for Medicare plans that has been threatening to burst my mailbox for the past few months. And that, in turn, reminded me that I have, as of today, relinquished my status as an independent, non-privileged American and become a member of a certified victim group, namely “senior citizens” (or “seniors” for short – I guess to include illegal aliens). Ah yes – the blessings of having lost a handful of physical, and maybe one or two mental, faculties – I can now relax and rest in the all-encompassing arms of the Nanny State... that is until Hillary Clinton comes up with a thinly-disguised euthanasia plan for “seniors” whose lives “aren't worth living”, according to... well, basically to her criteria. (“Quality of life”, as we know, is already defined largely on the basis of political convictions.)

But – you'll say – none of this has to make any great difference right away, does it? Can't life go on pretty much as it has been? Ah, but no – because I have also received a stern letter from the Ministry of Geezerdom, which I understand is a newly-formed division of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to this letter – which was duly notarized and arrived with “return receipt requested” -- I have a mere 30 days to implement, and successfully adapt to, the following “positive life changes”. I have, without further delay, to:

o Start wearing my belt up around the bottom of my rib cage;
o Wear lime-green double-knit slacks with a white plastic belt any time I go out of doors between Memorial Day and Labor Day;
o Look longingly into auto showroom windows at white Cadillacs (and buy one at the earliest possible opportunity);
o Take up golf;
o Cease and desist all other athletic activities (shuffleboard optional);
o Plan a move to Florida, or possibly Arizona. (Or I can apply to move to Mexico, but the waiting list has gotten extremely long of late.)
o Open a “passbook savings account” at my local bank (after first telling them what that is);
o Refuse to any longer eat food more flavorful or otherwise challenging than what is available at Boston Market;
o Join the gaggle of loud-mouthed retirees that meets each morning at the McDonald's down the street;
o Start writing cranky letters to the editor of the local paper (I checked that one off years ago);
o Wear a baseball cap whenever outside (OK... I guess I do that now, sort of... );
o Develop a bizarre taste for Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo music;
o Stay home on New Year's Eve to watch “New Year's Rockin' Eve” with Dick Clark;
o Do everything that Wilford Brimley tells me to do in all those ads;
o Spend half my waking hours in the drug store, either waiting for a prescription to be filled or browsing the laxative aisle;
o Spend a half hour in front of the canned soup rack whenever I'm at the local supermarket;
o Subscribe to Reader's Digest;
o Spend at least an hour a day watching the Home Shopping Network (and buying the junk they advertise!);
o Actually read the ads in the back of Parade magazine (and send in for some of the products offered!);
o Stop saying “my kid could do that!” at the art museum, and start saying “my grandkid could do that!”
o Start driving no more than 40 mph on the Turnpike (left lane, of course);
o Immediately stop signaling lane changes;
o Start braking for no reason between intersections;
o Get a GPS for my car, but I'm not allowed to figure out how it works;
o Let the IRS do my taxes for me;
o Start using those gadgets that remind me when to take my pills, and how many;
o Start getting haircuts again (but only in places with barber poles run by old Italian guys);
o Replace my current eyeglasses with bifocals (or, if I already have bifocals, with trifocals);
o Get a hearing aid (not that I need one... but if you're a geezer you have to have a hearing aid – that's the law). (And it has to be the kind that emits random loud, high-pitched screeches at the worst possible times – like at a chamber music concert.)
o (speaking of which) Start going to chamber music concerts (this is for geezers with formal education beyond the B.A. -- the others can get by if they attend one or two “concerts in the park” each summer – lawn chairs a must, of course);
o Move into a “retirement center” that offers “independent living”. (Well, if I wanted “independent living”, I'd stay right where I am, wouldn't I?) (And you'll notice, those places are no longer – ever – referred to as “retirement homes”, or, heaven forbid, “rest homes”, “nursing homes”, or just “homes”, or – as we used to say when I was a kid -- “old folks' homes”. Apparently the word “home” no longer has cachet when it comes to seniors. I guess it's a symptom of our uprooted, highway-bound society.)
o (if I were female) Start using “blue rinse”;
o Start going to classes in “senior centers” to learn to do things that would have bored me silly when I was four years old;
o Start taking day trips to casinos (preferably in buses driven by alcoholics or guys who forgot to take their narcolepsy meds);
o Only watch movies made between the beginning of the Hays Code and “The Pawnbroker” -- preferably ones starring Doris Day. (I would have said “or Rock Hudson”, but he turned out to have been a very bad boy.)
o Put the training wheels back on my bicycle;
o (if I could afford it) Buy a motor home the size of a tour bus and drive it down to the Keys every fall and back every spring. (The rest of the time it sits in the driveway, tantalizing the neighbors.)
o (optional) Buy a house in Florida on a canal and put out crab traps every morning;
o (optional) Buy a travel trailer in Winter Park and sit in it watching TV with the fan on;
o Trade in all acoustic instruments for an electronic keyboard (with automated percussion);
o (if I were female) Start collecting souvenir spoons (or plates);
o (for extra credit) Take up ham radio;
o Buy as many appliances as possible with “remotes”, then refuse to learn how to use them;
o Get one of those phones with Really Big Numbers (and an amplifier);
o When on the road, eat only at Cracker Barrel (and spend a minimum of 40 minutes in the gift shop each time I go in );
o When at a tourist attraction, spend all my time in the gift shop or restroom;
o Take up swing dancing (now that I'm too old to do it);
o When talking with other geezers, strictly limit the subject matter to: bodily functions, medications, family restaurants, and gift shops at tourist attractions;
o Admit that I'm too old to talk about sports, politics, or automation without being laughable;
o Quit reading any books that are not available in large-print editions;
o Quit listening to any “books on tape” that are not available in “shouting” versions;
o Buy a lifetime (heh heh) pass to Disney World;
o Only eat in restaurants that feature “early bird specials” at dinnertime (you know – served at an hour when most people are still eating lunch);
o Start going to bed before it gets entirely dark;
o Start getting up at night and shuffling aimlessly around for an hour or so;
o Start writing “reminder notes” for everything – then losing the notes;
o Start worrying about my lawn. I mean really worrying... like all the time. (Fortunately, I don't have a lawn, but in that case you're allowed to vicariously worry about other people's lawns.)
o (if married) See to that my wife has a nasty little dog that I have to take on humiliating “walks” at least twice a day;
o Do most of my window shopping at the 7-11;
o Start flying first class – even if it's only from Cleveland to Cincinnati;
o Stop using trains and start using buses (trolleys permitted, but only on Sundays);
o Start having lunch at the sample tables at Wal-Mart;
o (if a veteran) Join a veterans' organization – but it has to be one with a bar that opens at 9 AM;
o Wait in a long line at the post office to buy one stamp (hey – there's all the time in the world, right?);
o Get a job at a polling place, or as a school crossing guard, census taker, “meter maid”, or Wal-Mart greeter;
o Get rid of all my original artwork and start buying the shlock they sell in “home furnishings” stores;
o (if I were female) Start covering all my furniture in plastic;
o Keep the house (and car) at 85 degrees in the winter and 65 degrees in the summer;
o Become addicted to ice cream (or some other “comfort food” from childhood);
o Run the dishwasher after every meal (or, alternatively, only do dishes once every two weeks – but nothing in between);
o (if I were female) Start saving coupons, and get them out in the checkout line at the busiest time of day;
o Start buying lottery tickets (preferably when I'm at the head of a long line at the 7-11);
o Fail to realize that my refrigerator is full of stuff that could fully stock a biological warfare laboratory;
o Change my religion to something non-threatening. Like Methodism or something.

Well, that's the list so far – but it adds that “supplements may be appended at any time without notice”. So one can see that geezers in our society are heavily-laden in terms of what is expected – much more so than children, teenagers, or working people. And certainly much more than rich people who can hire someone else to do all that stuff for them. And there were other words of warning as well. If caught north of the Mason-Dixon Line any time during “high season” in Florida, I will be subject to immediate arrest and deportation. And showing an interest in the opposite sex is an occasion for either arrest or revulsion. And because I'm now a member of a certified victim group, I'm not allowed to publicly express any political opinion other than full support of all government entitlement programs.

So really, it's all too depressing. There is no longer a single act that does not have, potentially, dire consequences. For example, after a lifetime of worrying about what I put in my mouth, now I have to worry about what comes (or doesn't come) out of my butt. Just getting behind the wheel of a car puts me in the same category as a possessor of WMDs. And wow, I know I've blown it when I reflect that I could not have been dismissed from my old job because of age, but there is no possible way I could now get it back – or anything comparable. Yes, truly, we are living in a society of denial when it comes to aging. The youth cult marches on – even though many of the early beneficiaries are starting to look like re-animated corpses themselves. Extended families – especially when living all under one roof – are derided as “old-fashioned”, “old-world”, and “peasant-like”. And our age-stratification has reached the point where there is almost total segregation of people based on age and marital status (if not gender). Once one reaches retirement age, it really is in poor taste to stay on the job, and if one goes ahead and retires it's considered in poor taste to simply remain in the same place; one must join the long march of humanity to the skin cancer.... er, I mean “sunshine” zone.

But there is, I'm happy to say, a ray of hope on the horizon. As bleak and unforgiving as geezerhood is, if one lives through it there is the sun-lit upland of “super-geezerhood”. That's the age (starting at around 80) when no one any longer gives a damn what you do... so you can go back to doing pretty much as you please, including (but not limited to) smoking and drinking. (And if you're lucky, they may even stop trying to sell you life insurance. Which comedian was it who said, “I'm at the age when I don't even buy green bananas.”) So bear up, my fellow “seniors” -- after this long march through the lonesome valley, a world of renewed pleasure awaits.

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