That 'old, gray hair' just ain't what he used to be
On Saturday mornings, my pride slugs it out with my cheapness. I stop by a fast-food restaurant for a cup of coffee. Some weeks, I pay $1.05 and other weeks I get the coffee for 95 cents with a senior citizens discount.
The discount is a mixed blessing. It's nice to save a dime, but when the clerk rings up my order and tells me that I owe 95 cents, she is also telling me that I look old enough to be a senior citizen. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it gives me something to think about.
I've noticed, too, that the cashier who gives me the discount is always a whippersnapper. You qualify as a whippersnapper if you've never heard the term "whippersnapper" before. Generally, this means someone who is less than 35 years old.
When the clerk is 40 or older, I generally have to pay full price. There is a logical explanation for this. The older we get, the more generous we become in assessing the age of others.
Of course, there are exceptions to that. "Boy, didn't she get old!" "Oh, my gosh. I can't believe how much he has gone downhill."
These remarks are likely to occur just after we have met up with someone from our distant past. They are spoken to the person we are with when the person from our past has moved out of earshot.
This can also apply to celebrities we see on TV. Some people are continually amazed at the fact that people from their favorite sitcoms or dramas have gained 50 or 60 years and at least that many pounds since the shows were filmed.
Fortunately, we are usually more charitable in assessing the effects of aging on those in our age category.
They simply don't look that old - at least what we thought old was supposed to look like when we were young.
Working for a newspaper is not the best-paying job in the world, but does carry a big fringe benefit when it comes to aging gracefully.
My former managing editor is well past 80 and he probably could still toss out someone who gave him a hard time.
Another one of my former editors retired 20 years ago and looks pretty much the way he did when he left the paper. He is probably more active now than he was then - and that's really saying something.
But I suppose we are most charitable when assessing our own rate of aging. Like most young people, I thought anyone over 30 was ancient and anyone over 60 was prehistoric.
Now that I am approaching that prehistoric milestone of 60, I have revised my thinking on the matter.
I have one distinct advantage of being ugly. Scientific studies have shown that is difficult to lose your looks when you didn't look good in the first place.
I don't look too much worse than I did when I was young and I've gotten used to the way I look by now.
Even if we do look a bit worse for wear, we often don't feel that way.
I don't know what being 58 is supposed to feel like, but I don't think that I feel that way. I don't feel too much differently from when I was a whippersnapper or knee high to a grasshopper, as my old vocational education teacher used to say.
Don't get me wrong. The warranty has started to run out on some of my parts. When I even slightly bend my knees, they start clicking and clicking as if someone were using Morse code to send "The Declaration of Independence" on a telegraph in the Smithsonian Institution.
The only way my knees would let me come anywhere close to running is if I found myself in the path of an approaching freight train.
Still and all, I don't feel like what I thought I would feel like at this age. If I don't have to bend my knees or look in a mirror, I am not much more decrepit and rundown than I have been since becoming a grownup.
I suppose I really don't know how a 58-year-old guy is supposed to feel.
Gray hair doesn't feel any different than the remaining dark brown hair. And, I save a few seconds every day because I have less hair to comb.
I don't have the urge to lecture young people about the kind of music they listen to. Even if I did, it wouldn't do much good since they they're listening to music turned up to top volume in their earplugs. They wouldn't hear me anyway.
Likewise, I have no hankering to return to the good, old days or tell them they don't know how good they have it. (After all, why should I ruin their good, old days?)
It's been over 40 years since I was graduated from high school, and I don't feel that much different.
That can lead to only one of two conclusions. Either I'm in fairly decent shape now or, more likely, I was in really lousy shape back then.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)