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Back to as you were l Chuck’s World


Last updated 4/3/2019 at Noon

I turned 60 last summer on a glorious day with waves of stomach-churning excitement, which I’ve since decided was food poisoning. It was not a good birthday.

That was just salmonella, though. The actual number didn’t bother me, the way it doesn’t seem to bother most people I know. They might dread it, sure, but the big day comes and they eat some cake, and maybe it stays down and maybe it doesn’t.

It’s not a big deal.

There’s a finality to 60, though. There’s no nuance, no shading, no glittering semantics to finesse reality. You may turn 60 and live another 40 years, absolutely. But they won’t be your finest years. Your hearing and eyesight will take care of that, if your knees don’t get there first.

But that’s just aging, and even 40-year-olds will tell you stories. We all notice changes as time goes on. So far, as a 60-something person, I’ve only noticed less hair and a cool name (sexagenarian).

And I have a list of behaviors to avoid. I don’t engage young cashiers in casual conversation. I don’t watch cable news or follow the weather religiously. I think younger people are obviously more competent and aware of the world than I am.

I hope in 2020 to cast a vote for a presidential candidate who’s between 35 and 50.

I’m trying not to get old, in other words, just age a little. My motto is “60 is the new 57,” and I intend to live that way as long as I can.

I’ll admit to some crankiness, but mostly when it comes to people who try to explain things to me that I already know. This usually happens when a 20-something journalist writes a piece exposing some tidbit of history from 1972, when none of us were apparently alive.

Or just commentary on something we’ve already discussed to death.

The other day, I read an article in which the author wrote breathlessly about the increased size of portions in the contemporary American restaurant, which we’ve been talking about for years. Anyone who eats out is aware that even cheap food comes in wheelbarrows these days, and they probably know the reason.

Because food is inexpensive, and it looks better to have a big plate covered to the edges with edibles. The focus of this article was that, in a country battling an obesity epidemic, as they say we are, all this food wasn’t helping.

We know this or we should, those of us old enough to remember when it wasn’t this way.

The way it used to be. The old normal. Take a young person from 2019 and plop them into a diner in 1972. They’ll wonder where all the french fries went, for one thing. They might also complain about all the cigarette smoke. It would be different.

I’m fascinated now by the changes, in fact, as I’ve moved past my children’s generation in terms of awareness. When my kids were growing up, I was cognizant of what they were experiencing in the culture because I was a parent.

That was my job, just like it was my job to explain what life was like with black-and-white television (it was horrible), and so on.

But now, I dunno.

My son is nearly 30, my daughter 34. A 20-year-old has a life unexamined by me. I’d have to work at it a little harder to figure out what might surprise them about the past.

I want to find the small stuff, too. The stuff nobody talks about. We can all go on about groundbreaking technology and when it showed up, but how about the little things?

Like blow dryers. Nobody talks about blow-dryers, but they didn’t exist (they actually did) and then suddenly everybody had three. It’s not the microwave or the PC or the VCR, but they’re ubiquitous now, and I remember when they weren’t.

Or debit cards and how we use them. I’ve had a bank card since I was 18 and got a checking account. It even worked with an ATM of sorts, a machine only connected to my bank but certainly functioning in the same way.

But it’s really only been in this century that we could pay for everything with plastic. I remember gushing in print 15 years ago about the joys of paying for gas at the pump, so it’s not nearly as old as we might think it is.

It feels like forever since we’ve been handing over cards and not cash, but not really.

And no one pumped their own gas until the early 1970s and the first Middle East oil crisis, when gas prices shot up and self-serve stations came into existence.

I could go on. The reason most of our food and medicine that comes in bottles have little paper seals over the tops? The Chicago Tylenol murders of 1982, when seven people died from bottles of Tylenol laced with cyanide.

And sure. I imagine if you grabbed a person from 1972 and whooshed them here to 2019, they’d wonder how everybody got so fat. It might be low on the list of things to wonder about, though.

So now I’ve explained a few historical tidbits to all my younger readers, of which there are probably none. I’ve told you stuff you already know, then, just like the reporter up there who made me cranky. Which makes me feel young, I guess.

I’ll take it.


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