Approaching double nickels, he remembers zip

By SCOTT SAALMAN
Guest Columnist

Saalman

The double-nickel age is just days away.

Fifty-five.

That’s old.

Even people 75 think 55 is old.

I’m reminded of 55’s impending arrival each time I forget something.

It’s been happening more frequently, this forgetfulness.

People come up to me in public. Start talking. They apparently know me. They say things to me that are relatable and make sense as discussion points. I act like I’m listening, do the head nod thing, when all that’s really running through my mind is, “Who in the hell are you?”

Often, Brynne is with me when this happens. I secretly pray she doesn’t ask me to introduce the person to her.

Brynne is amazed at how many people apparently know who I am here in town.

When the person leaves, she typically asks, “So, who was that?”

And I, more so than not, say, “Hell if I know.”

She’s equally amazed at how many “hell if I knows” I know here in town.

Or don’t know.

The wearing of name tags in public should be law. AARP should lobby for this.  

Even if a person just writes “Hell if I know” on the tag, at least it’s a clue. A vague clue. But a clue.

Relatives don’t make it any easier. I have second and third cousins that I see every couple of years or so, funerals usually. We have the same last name, but I always get the first names wrong, usually call them by their brother’s name, or sister’s name. It’s really bad when I call a brother by his sister’s name.

I try not to make eye contact with these somewhat distant relatives who live too damn close to me. I pretend to be engrossed in the coffin’s contents, when all I’m really trying to do is figure out the deceased’s first name. Corpses should wear name tags too. Just saying. At least it might keep me from calling a fellow mourner by the dead person’s name.

One of them, one of the sisters, always traps me, has done this for a hundred years.

“Do you know who I am?” she asks.

“Well, hey!”

“What’s my name?”

“You’re so funny. I know your name.”

“You don’t know my name.”

I try to exorcise the awkwardness out of this hellish conversation and say something like, “I was really shocked by your brother’s death.”

“My brother’s not dead!”

“Sister?”

“You don’t even know what funeral you’re at.”

“Oops. I just realized I’m in the wrong viewing room.”

I wish my relatives would quit dying—consider my feelings for a change.

Brynne, eight years younger, is well aware that something is going amiss in my mind. I still can’t remember the names of her cats. I call them Black Cat and Orange Cat. She’s very forgiving, although I don’t know why she doesn’t just stick name tags on the damn cats. That I remember her kids’ names seems good enough for her.

Last week, the atomic bomb of forgetfulness occurred — three episodes of aloofness on the same morning.

1. I decided to make an egg sandwich. Pulled out the egg carton. The skillet. Turned on the stove’s burner. Cracked an egg. Emptied the yolk and albumen directly onto the hot burner, realizing too late that the skillet was still behind me on the countertop. An egg fries very quickly when it sits directly on the burner. It’s not a good smell. It’s not easy to clean—especially when you don’t do it until evening.

2. I visited the drive-thru window at Smalley Coffee. It’s out of my way, turns my normal 5-minute drive to work into a 20-minute drive, but the trip is worth it. I get great pleasure buying coffee from a business based in an Airstream—it’s so Jasper nouveau. The barista, Madison, was at the window. She smiled. Small coffee, I told her. She told me the total. She smiled. I handed her a ten. She smiled. She gave me change. She smiled. I drove to work. At my desk, I reached for my coffee. There was no cup to clutch. I had ordered my coffee, paid for my coffee, received change for my coffee, but drove away without my coffee. I didn’t smile.

3. I was in a stupor without my coffee. That morning, I made countless trips down the hallways (OK, partly because I get lost) and had several conversations with coworkers (I remember most of their names) before realizing my pants had been unzipped ever since my coffee-less arrival. That’s why morning coffee is so important — it frequently sends me to the bathroom and increases the odds that I will notice whether or not my pants have been zipped. Unzipped pants are not a new thing for me. It has happened a lot in my 50s. It’s really not a big deal. Unless it occurs in, say Walmart, and you hear a little boy exclaim, “Look, mommy, that old man’s barndoor is open.” Or worse yet, “Look mommy, a puppet show!” “Billy, for god’s sake, don’t point at the puppet!”

So, there you have it. Yet another sad but true story about . . . uh . . . what the hell’s my name?

Just kidding. I know who I am. Scott. Says so on my nametag.

Today’s column does have a silver lining: at least I remember forgetting things.

Bring it on, 55! Bring it on.




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