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The Art of Aging Gracefully

bite me

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 29, 2002.

It’s too nice a day to worry about nuclear war between Pakistan and India, or the various pretentious failures of our government. Besides, something monumental has happened.

Last week, I returned two books to the Library. Late. But being naturally of a heroic frame of mind, I immediately brandished my wallet and said, in Stentorian tones but with smiling visage “What’s the damage, I owe a late fee” to the young volunteer behind the console. I hope you remember that when the Swedish Academy next seeks applicants for one of their higher humanitarian awards. Hint.

Without looking up the young woman said “Well, normally there’d be charge, but because it’s you, we’ll pass on it.” Finally, acknowledgement. Actually, that’s what I have always hoped to hear, in slightly different form, from headwaiters at various restaurants, bartenders, and doctors, but I’ll take a fifty cent break at the library.

What was actually said was “Well, we don’t charge seniors late fees.” I was still smiling and brandishing the wallet when the words sunk in.

“I’m sorry?” I said, and indeed I was.

“We don’t charge seniors late fees.” An incomprehensible sentence, directed at me, who only recently entered late youth. The young lady cleared the screen in anticipation of another customer, currently nowhere to be seen. Although I was happy I did not have to pay, I rather glumly stuffed the wallet away and whined “Precisely, who do you consider a senior?

“Anyone over the age of sixty,” this spawn of Satan announced. Let me assure you, if mere wish for spontaneous combustion of another being could be downloaded and activated, there would have been bone chip clean up at checkout counter two, main Library branch.

“But,” I started and almost said “but, young lady,” but caught myself and started to say something to announce that rather than a forty year difference in age between us there was only a thirty-five or so but realized, given the time that had now elapsed between my initial “But” and where we were on the continuum at the second that anything I said now would be a sign of a faltering memory unless I could say something witty like I used to from stage periodically long ago when I played banjo and sang in the seventies – do you remember Mason Proffit? I liked them… - but now the time between my conjunction “but” and where I was now had gone on far too long and she was looking at me with a face going from polite tolerance to concern. I made a command decision and uttered the second word in what was soon to become a sentence. “…..but.”

“You don’t look sixty,” she said, perhaps at a loss for words, clearly intimidated by my rapid fire delivery. In any case, a life line to the end of my sentence.

“That is because, you pre-fetal clump of cell division, I am not sixty. I’m still a human being.” I should have said but didn’t. I should also have followed that by screaming “I am not a freak. I am an elephant!” but doubt she had read enough to catch the reference and in any case would not think it funny in PC Boulder. So, I simply said: “I’m under fifty-five. See? Here’s my driver’s license.” She glanced at it balefully.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” She paused and looked up at me again. Concern still there. “Would you like me to change it in the computer?”

“Yes.” I said. Did I tell you I once did standup comedy? Really, this is just a sample of how witty I was.

She said she changed it and apologized and I said thank you but remain unconvinced. That was Friday last.

Tuesday last I was in the Post Office with a friend and while we waited in line to get her package, I opened my mail. In it was a letter from AARP with my new membership card.

“I didn’t order this, for God’s sake,” I said in a calm, serene voice that may have inadvertently sounded louder than I thought given all other conversation ceased and fifty people turned in my direction. “What the hell are they doing, trying to edge me into the ditch? I’m not old. What the hell is going on? How did they get my name? How do they know how old I am? Who ARE these people?” All that was perhaps delivered in tones suggesting some emotional distress as all four counter clerks started to feel under the counter for the alarm button. One of them looked suspiciously like the girl at the library.

My friend led me out to the street where I explained to her that I wasn’t old enough for AARP. I’m not retired. Hell, I was barely old enough to drive. “We need to talk about that soon, too,” she said. Wonder what she means by THAT?

So go ahead and worry about the first nuclear war. I’m concerned about the important things. Buncha teenagers………..here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?