Having turned 60 just four days ago, I’ve been contemplating the idea of aging gracefully. In order to figure out how one goes about that, I’ve been discreetly watching old people.
Here in Florida, we have no shortage of specimens to study. Granted, the supply is far greater in South Florida than here in North Florida, where it generally gets too cold for the species. In South Florida, old people are like one of the greatest hazards you face. It’s like living in an earthquake zone, except you can’t buy insurance for it.
Fortunately, old people in South Florida are easily recognizable even from a distance, because they are all driving Chrysler Sebring convertibles. And no one else does. When driving on I-95–which in and of itself is about as safe as hang-gliding–there are only two things you need to watch out for. Semi trucks, whose drivers will remember to apply the brakes mere seconds after running over you and the four cars in front of you from behind, and Chrysler Sebring convertibles.
The typical Chrysler Sebring convertible on I-95 will at first glance appear to be unoccupied, since the driver will be too short to see over the dashboard, and in some cases, will be too short to be visible through the driver’s-side window. The driver will also always be in the far left lane, since he or she is pretending to be living life in the fast lane. Suddenly, a brain cell will fire and he or she will realize that the exit he/she needed to take is four exits back. Then he/she will veer across five lanes of 80 mile-per-hour traffic to take the next exit, blissfully heedless of the horn-blowing and brake-screeching. I guess there is an advantage to losing your hearing.
But I digress. I’ve lived in North Florida now for 9 years so I have fewer specimens to study, but it is, after all, still Florida. Home of the brave, land of the Senior Citizen. In the week before my momentous birthday, I observed the following situations:
Old guy gets dropped off in a parking garage by the elevators, while younger woman (daughter, granddaughter, wife?) goes to park the car. He gingerly makes his way to the elevator landing and casually leans on a nearby handrail What? He couldn’t walk from the car to the elevator? Is this in my future?
Scenario Number Two: Also involving parking. Old woman gets into her car, parked in a handicapped space. It then takes her 15 minutes to actually start the car and get moving. Oh no. This hits way too close to home. Except in the opposite direction. When I get IN the car to leave somewhere, I’m ready to roll. It’s when I reach my destination and get OUT of the car that poses the problem.
It seems to me that when I was younger, I would reach my destination and hop out of the car in a veritable heartbeat. Now it’s like, should I take my whole handbag, or just the wallet and the book? Do I need my sunglasses, or should I leave them in the car? And what about the umbrella? I see a dark cloud in the distance. Should I take the sunglasses AND the umbrella? Did I turn off the headlights? Is the emergency brake on?
Much has been written about how boomers are re-writing the idea of aging and I believe there is a lot of truth to that. It seems to me that it used to be that at a certain age you were supposed to adopt a sort of aged persona. You’ve now risen above all those little annoyances that used to be such an important part of your life (you know, like sex, and Twitter).
My preliminary conclusion is: I’m not aging gracefully. First of all, I hear perfectly, and I can walk a long way. I don’t have a handicapped license plate. I don’t own a Chrysler Sebring convertible. The logical conclusion is, I’m not old. And I refuse to be old. But wait…is that a wrinkle I see? Not to worry. I’m pretty sure there’s an app for that.