Many moons ago I worked at a job I liked a lot. In my office was a secretary in her late 60s or early 70s. Even though she was quite grouchy, I felt bad for her because she had never married and she had another single older lady friend in the building who collected Beanie Babies. If I ever start collecting Beanie Babies, I want you all to take it as my final cry for help, signaling my intention to shave my head bald the very next day, then buy a Siberian Tiger, and—with the tiger—run across the White House lawn toward the Oval Office wearing a neon t-shirt that says “Hey Delta Force Sniper on the Roof, I know your grandmother and she’s GORGEOUS!”
Sure I can help you! I love French tourists. Just run at top speed toward that black figure on the roof, two clicks to the right of the flagpole. Wave your arms and scream loudly so he knows you simply have a question about when the next tour is.
The other reason I felt kindly toward this woman was because certain key muscles of hers had long since rejected the tyrannical dictates of her brain, granting unto themselves the authority to pass gas noisily at any moment. This rebellion often transformed her innocent mail-delivery walks through tightly-packed cubicles into drive-by stinkerings of the grimmest sort. When these outbursts happened within a few inches of a sitting person’s head, she might mumble a curt “oh dear” or “excuse me” or “what?” before moving on to the next victim. But just as often the organic horn blasts were greeted by our mutual silence and common understanding that we were all in this thing together.
“Run like the wind, Slanthor the Wise. Run like the wind toward that oval shape.”
These incidents made me think about growing old. On the one hand growing old has its benefits, the biggest of which is that you don’t give a plug nickel about what anyone thinks of you. You don’t care that your home smells like Ukrainians—dead Ukrainians—or that you have nose and ear hairs that could easily be braided. You can curse—even as a devoutly religious person—with impunity. I had a grandma who called kids that she was annoyed with “little shits,” as in “That little shit ate all the hard candies from the jar and got one stuck in the bathroom carpet.” And that’s another thing; you can have carpet in your bathroom (which is truly disgusting) because it’s warm and comfortable. And because it takes mildew and urine fungus a few months to start growing, and who knows whether you’ll even be around to deal with the consequences.
“Please, don’t do it! Help is on it’s way! You have so much to live for!”
I care too much about what other people think about me, and if you’re honest with yourself I think you’ll be compelled to admit the same. Why do we care so much how successful others think we are, or how high on the mission leadership ladder we climbed (in case you’re wondering–zone leader, which in my mission was basically a bigger deal than AP), or whether we know more about sharks than everyone else in the room. Or in the neighborhood. Possibly in the whole state of New Mexico. Regardless, how great will it be to free ourselves from those pressures?
Ladies, let me break this down for you: A lot of mens number 1 doesn’t actually end up in the toilet, regardless of how good he is. And old men with shaky legs and a faulty start/stop function? You get the idea. That carpet isn’t turning yellow from sun bleaching, I can tell you that much.
But the swearing and the carpeted bathrooms and the walking out to pick up the newspaper naked from the waist down all comes at a price, the most onerous aspect of which is losing one’s health. This has been on my mind lately as I have had a couple minor health concerns. Nothing drastic. Just bad shoulders and a sensitive back due to years of window cleaning. Seriously, there aren’t many things worse than feeling unhealthy. Living an otherwise great life with health problems is like eating great food with a severe canker sore. I’m being serious here. Health problems really bring you down in a way few other types of problems can; even something as relatively minor as an easily-sprained back and sore joints – things that will likely return to normal when I either change careers or have more workers under me. The issues I’ve been dealing with are nothing compared to the ailments folks get in their elder years, and I’m not looking forward to that part of growing old at all. Not one bit. Body falling apart, systems shutting down. It sounds miserable to me. No sir, not this guy. I think I’ll take that Delta Force Roof Sniper offer, thank you very much.
“Hey fat boy. Yes you. Actually you might be a woman, I can’t tell. I bet that’s a bb gun and you’re just a White House intern pretending up there. I’m from Colorado City, Arizona. Ever heard of it? Can you see me mooning you through that fake scope of yours, you pinko commie pansy?”
[Correction: I’ve been informed that my dear Grandma used “little shit” as a term of affection, as in “oh, look at that cute little shit.”]