I know we’re supposed to be raging against the storm and convincing ourselves that wrinkles are really “laugh lines,” but there are a lot of things to enjoy about getting older. Getting older, by the way, is not the same thing as aging. Aging is about losing vigor and getting weaker and stapling “out of order” signs on your knees and ears. Getting older, though, is a positive thing, and not merely because it means you haven’t died…yet.
For one thing, you’ve been there and done that, which means you don’t have to do it again if you didn’t like it the first time. You panic less, because you’ve been through more false alarms. People offer you discounts without being asked, and you get a pass from fads like the ice bucket challenge, snorting Tide pods, and kale.
But the best thing about getting older is never, ever, ever being at a loss for conversation when you meet other people in your age group. Any time I connect with other guys over 60, I know the first half hour of small talk is guaranteed. And all I need to do is ask…
How are you?
Not so hot. I finally got the second knee replaced last month and it’s much easier to get around, but now that I can sit, the hemorrhoids are killing me.
Sorry to hear that.
Not a big deal. I can’t sit long, anyway, because I have to go pee every three minutes. Damned prostate.
That sounds like a challenge.
It’s hell. I just stand there and sing a few show tunes while I wait for something to happen, and then I need to do it again ten minutes later. I had to stop at three gas stations on the drive over here, and they all made me buy those pine-tree air fresheners before they would give me keys to the john.
Got it. Now I’m even more grateful you made the effort to meet for lunch. Have you been here before?
Yeah. Maxine and I came when they first opened last year, but I got some reflux from the corned beef sandwich and we haven’t been back since. Maxine says I shouldn’t be eating all the fat and salt, anyway, but that’s what makes it taste good.
Would you rather we go somewhere else for lunch?
No, no, don’t make any changes on my account. Anyway, I’ve got this pill for cholesterol and this one for blood pressure, and this one for reflux, or maybe it’s for my nerves. Doesn’t matter. I can eat anything now. The only thing I still need is a pill to let me sleep through the night without having to get up every hour to pee. Crazy. I can’t go from one end and I can’t stop from the other. You’d think it would even out somehow, but nope.
Well, yes, thanks for sharing that. How are things going otherwise?
Ya gotta love it. When you dine with old people, there’s never a lull in the conversation, never a search for topics and never an awkward pause. The conversation itself is hugely awkward, but it never slows down, either.
Next time you’re feeling low, take an old guy out to lunch. It’s a very uplifting experience, in a warped kind of way, and you’ll never lack for fascinating topics.
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The mysteries of business meetings, thriving on jargon, and the most thankless job in the world are all top of mind this week, among other cautionary tales…
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Six Tires, No Plan has a rating of 4.7 out of 5.0 on Amazon, so I shouldn’t be complaining about grade inflation…but it does seem that we’re all getting trophies for showing up these days.
I must admit that I am a true curmudgeon about praise. I don’t clap when some famous actor walks onto the stage, because he hasn’t done anything yet, and I seldom applaud when the fat lady sings, because that what she was paid to do in the first place. And, yes, I am the same guy who wrote that I want applause for finishing my dinner and tying my shoes, but that was about me, not other people. I am special and deserving, but the rest of the world? Not so much.
Like Yoda, I believe that there is no try and coffee is for closers. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate effort, but I don’t like participation trophies, either. Maybe it’s okay for toddlers, but we all need to be weaned by the time we’re seven. (This is the point at which readers will begin to feel bad for my daughters.)
I am clearly in the minority, though, because I cannot go to a play without enduring a standing ovation at the end. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it was> Everyone’s on their feet for the close, clapping like seals who just snagged a mackerel.
The same puzzle awaits me every time I take a Lyft ride. I always start with four stars and the driver can work up or down from there, but Lyft assumes that four stars is a mediocre rating and the only acceptable rating is five stars. Give the driver four stars and the caption comes up, “Okay, could be better,” and then they ask what was wrong.
Nothing. Nothing was wrong. It’s a *&#@$% cab ride, not a private jet. I’ve had two or three rides good enough to bump my rating up to five, but really? Five stars for taking me to the dentist?
All this grade inflation has made the ubiquitous rating systems meaningless. A 4.5 rating on Yelp! could mean “very good” or “entrails with sriracha.” There’s no way to know. Ratings become meaningless when the top score becomes the starting point.
Clearly, we need a six-star scale to restore meaning to this quagmire, and we should institute jumping-jack ovations for truly exceptional acting. Grade inflation will creep in, of course, and we’ll need seven or eight stars, and headstand ovations, in another year or two.
In the meantime, I probably need to lower my standards for pretty much everything. And you need to rate this post 27 stars.
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I come to you today to issue an apology, not only from me but from all the people of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, including people in Gurnee and Gray’s Lake and even the Buffalo Grovesters, who didn’t know they needed to apologize.
But we do.
Because the whole polar vortex thing was not our finest hour and, in fact, it exposed us for the frightened little weenies we are.
Every winter, people in our area read from the same script whenever it snows or sleets or drops below freezing in Washington, D.C. or Atlanta or Memphis or any other town that’s south of 95th Street. We watch the video of the cars skidding or the closed stores and we bray like asses.
"What a bunch of wimps, whining about a little bit of snow or ice or sleet or hail. You’d never last a minute in a Chicago winter. Hah. Hah. Hah."
And what did we do last week when the polar vortex paid us a visit? We closed our stores and skidded our cars and posted memes about Chiberia and pointed out that it was colder here than in Antarctica. Except, of course, that it’s summer in Antarctica and temperatures above zero are what they call a heat wave.
Then, almost all of us enjoyed a day off like federal workers on a furlough (too soon?), pretending to work from home while we spent the day online. In other words, it was like pretty much any other workday for 75 million Millennials.
Yes, the polar vortex was absolutely cold and dangerous and a miserable thing, but Chicagoans need to take a lesson in stoicism from some of our northern neighbors. You know what they were talking about in Cotton, Minnesota? No, you don’t, because it isn’t a major media center and the entire population is three lumberjacks and a reindeer. Ditto for Norris Camp, Minnesota, although they just got their second reindeer.
When the temperature dropped last week to 56 below in Cotton and 48 below in Norris Camp, and even Cedar Rapids hit 30 below, the locals dealt with it. In Chicago, we were all beating our chests and sobbing—at the same time—about 21 below. Who’s the wimp now?
In Grand Forks, North Dakota, the local paper dismissed the whole month of January as cold, but not as cold as in other years. That’s what tough people do. They scoff at the also-rans and the nice tries. Come back when you’re a real man, Jack Frost. Clearly, I want someone from Grand Forks with me when the going gets tough.
Our alternating braggadocio and whimpering is a basic human condition, of course. We all need to be better than, smarter than, holier than, hardier than…even more-put-upon-than. It’s the same need that drives consumerism and elitism and racism and the insufferable smugness of political purists. We don’t just want to be special. We want to be more special than everyone else, even when we're not.
The fact is that winters aren’t nearly as bad now as they were when I was a kid, and not only because my grade school was swallowed by Mastodons. Back in the '60s, people worked in factories and had to show up at the plant if they were going to make anything. Now, we all sit at computers in coffee shops and communal workspaces, or we work from home when the mood strikes us. Weather simply isn’t the same issue it was in the old days.
Even better, we have the gig economy today. When Ma Nature dumped 23 inches of snow on the city during one day in 1967, we had no choice but to grab the sled and dig through the streets to buy some milk and bread at Jewel. Then we dug out the car and called dibs on the parking space until the thaw in June. Today, Instacart delivers our groceries and we leave our cars buried in the snow while we order rides from Lyft. Except for a handful of drivers, delivery people and the folks who keep the electricity flowing, we can all stay home and not be missed. In a few years, we won’t need any people at all.
Before then, I’m hoping my fellow Chicagoans will awaken from their weather benders and regret all the things we said last night(s). We were wimpy, whiny, little babies who sat at home and made screen shots of weather.com pages and craved the sympathy we deny to other cities when they get a few days that are colder than the norm.
I, for one, am so, so sorry, and embarrassed, and contrite and I want to send an especially sincere apology to the people who soldiered on, without complaint, through much worse conditions in Grand Forks and Cedar Rapids and Cotton and Norris Camp.
And your reindeer.
If those reindeer could read, they'd be signing up to subscribe to dadwrites and absorbing all our wisdom every week. Be sure to obtain a gift subscription for Prancer and Vixen, or for yourself, by clicking here. If nothing else, you'll have something to read if you're stuck inside during bad weather.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.