Check back later, he's on a long scrollNovember 12, 2020
By SCOTT SAALMAN
At age 55, I gained a whole new perspective on Sammy Hagar’s solid rock classic, “I Can’t Drive 55.” The high-octane hit first assaulted the airwaves when I was in college, and it fueled within me a sense of restless, reckless abandon at a time when the odometer needle seemed to perpetually dance at the right side of the 55 mph mark.
Now, almost 56, I still can claim to be unable to drive 55; unfortunately, it’s due to a different reason: whereas 55 once seemed too slow to drive, 55 now seems too fast to drive. The automatic death grip applied to the steering wheel during acceleration of my 2018 Little Red Corolla on the highway demonstrates this sea change.
Full disclosure: since purchasing my Little Red Corolla (aka Greased Lightnin’) two years ago, I have been pulled over thrice for speeding. This might partly explain why I drive in “grandpa gear” now.
There are other symptoms of my advanced age status.
I’ve had two colonoscopies, neither resulting in long-lasting psychological scarring. Sadly, I can’t say the same for my first prostate exam, which occurred in my 40s and left me feeling freakishly self-conscious due to what the doctor first said to me from behind as I heard his gloves snap tight and he zeroed in on the bull’s-eye.
“I really don’t like doing this,” he said. I kid you not! Was he saying this to himself? To me? Was there something in my bent mannerism that prompted this sharing of feelings? Did I appear overly eager? Did he say this to all his male patients? Or just to me? If the latter was the case, then what the hell was wrong with me? Perhaps he could’ve alleviated this entire awkwardness by simply using a canary as an alternative method for this invasive procedure. Bottom line: these preventative exams are important if you aspire to live longer.
I have worked at the same company for 30 years. During my first year, a coworker, John (who looked really old then; possibly the age I am now), stopped me in a hallway and said, “You’re not holding a piece of paper. You need to at least have a piece of paper in your hand to look like you’re doing something besides wandering the hallways.” He carried a piece of paper, even though it appeared totally blank. After that, I never left my desk without paper. It’s the secret to my 30-year corporate career. Today, there are coworkers who are generations younger than me in the halls. I look as old to them as paper-pushing mentor John looked to me in 1990. Sadly, I have no solid career advice to offer since everything is electronic now. Today, you’d look suspect carrying a piece of paper.
Earlier this week, a website required me to divulge the year I was born via the assistance of one of those dreaded select-your-birth-year drop-down menus that clearly favor today’s youth since the present year is always listed at the very top. Oldsters like me must work our way downward — way downward. The required scrolling and click-work was exhausting. Ageism, pure and simple.
I’m not sure why the website required my birth year. I wasn’t ordering booze. Perhaps it was to protect the website’s company from legal liability. Knowing my age, the company could block me from ordering something too dangerous for a 56-year-old man to possess — hula hoop comes to mind. Or maybe they’re just trying to protect others from being subjected to seeing a 56-year-old man blow out a hip with his new hula hoop.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t shopping for a future hip replacement, although I’m really not sure what I ultimately ordered. I’m turning 56. My short-term memory isn’t what ... wait ... what was I saying?
I can’t wait for the order to arrive just to remind me of what it was I ordered. I love surprises. Even if it’s from me to me. Thanks, me, for the surprise birthday present!
My drop-down menu journey was humbling. Reaching 1999, I found myself back in the previous century, making me feel extra old. It took 56 left-mouse clicks to reach my birth year. Each click resembled yet another scoop of a graveyard digger’s shovel. This wasn’t a drop-down menu, this was a drop-dead menu.
I bemoaned to my wife about the required deep dive to 1964. Brynne, eight years younger than me, is always good to have around when aging gets me down.
I know what you’re thinking. A 48-year-old trophy wife! A red Toyota Corolla! Middle-age crisis alert! My response: so, sue me.
The age gap between us actually brings much-needed balance to my life, for I truly believe you are only as old as the person you marry. Therefore, technically, I could’ve clicked 1972 and possibly ordered a hula hoop.
“Fifty-six,” I cried. “Fifty-six.”
To alleviate my moodiness, Brynne corrected me, “Not fifty-six; fifty-sexy.”
I’m happy that Brynne thinks this to be so, though I can’t help my suspicion that she married me in 2019 solely for my Little Red Corolla, especially knowing she is still young enough to drive it over 55.
Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to order his new column collection, “What Are You Going to Write About When I’m Gone ($15).
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