Thursday, March 12, 2015

Does this check smell right to you?

Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland
But I think it's all overdone
Exaggerating this and exaggerating that
They don't have no fun

Paul Simon

When I was in my early 20s, writing about age was easy. I was shallow enough, and sure that I knew everything, so- easy peasy. As long as Hallmark produced greeting cards and Rod McKuen kept churning out poetry. I could insert observations on aging in anything I was working on.

Now, I'd have to say, “Not so much.”

Look, I see people who use their age as an excuse so often, that it leaves me with the feeling that they can't wait to get old. Truly. As I listen to them, I get the sense that it's just another way to give up. Quit the fight. I have always tried to avoid age as an excuse, unless it was, you know, something I really didn't want to do.

“Honey, I'd love to clear the driveway, especially since temperatures are in those single digits I enjoy so much. But, I'm not as young as I used to be. I wouldn't want to break something and have to have you take care of me,,, even more than you do... which is a lot... and which I sure do appreciate... and as long as I have your attention, could you get me another cup of coffee? I'd get it myself, but, my knees, you know...”

Other than that, I haven't wanted to rush the aging process since I reached the mark for “You have to be this tall to take this ride.”

But as we've grown older, so have many of our friends and we all end up being aware of our age, comparing aches and pains and bemoaning true limitations. You also have a new view of how paranoia strikes deep in the heartland. For instance...

The other day I got a call from my credit union. I love my credit union. They actually look out for me, and help me manage my accounts when I don't even know I need help.

This time, the charming woman on the credit union end of the phone, after identifying herself and confirming who I was, asked, “Did you deposit a check here earlier this week?”

“Why, yes I did. Is there a problem?”

“No. Not really. It's just that the girls (?!) were looking at it and thought it looked... funny. They hadn't seen a check like it before and were just a little concerned.”

This is what I mean about my credit union. Something didn't seem right and they called to ask.

“It's fine. It's money from a grant we receive to help us pay our medical expenses. It's been a life saver for us. And you have actually cashed a number of them for us already.”

“So no one asked you to send any money, then?”

“Nope. It was strictly a very generous thing for them to do.”

“Well, that's good. We just don't want any of our customers being taken advantage of.”

“Thanks for checking.” I always like to finish credit union calls with a little banking humor. Checking. Get it?

A couple of hours later, though, I started to think about what the call had really been about. I know it was positive, and it was certainly a terrific thing for them to do, but... “We don't want any of our customers to be taken advantage of...” What? Wait. Hold on. I've been banking with this company a long time and no one has ever called to be sure I wasn't being taken advantage of. Is that sentence actually saying, “We don't want any of our older customers to be taken advantage of.”

So was she really asking if I had sent any money to a Nigerian prince so they could release my family's long, lost gazillions in gold to me? Had I been offered stock in a Somalian diamond mine? Paranoia can be an investment strategy, you know. Regardless, I decided it was just a nice thing to do. Thank you credit union!

In a somewhat related matter, many of my friends, from every age group, have been voicing their concern about forgetting things. They are so worried about having Alzheimer's, which seems like it can strike at virtually any age, that any type of forgetting upsets them terribly. To our general discredit, we tend to try to joke it away, probably because we don't want to look at our own fear around the issue.

My mother lived to be 91 and virtually every day she did at least one crossword puzzle. She maintained it helped her stay mentally sharp. Since she certainly was, I thought I'd try something similar.

I don't like crossword puzzles, so I got a book of “Jumbles” to help keep me sharp. You know “Jumbles,” right? You straighten out four words, take designated letters from each answer, then use then use those to solve an illustrated puzzle, with puns looming large in the solutions.

I like doing those. But, here's the thing. I have put my Jumble book somewhere “safe” and I can't find it. I'm not kidding. I've looked in all the usual places, but that's how I know I put it somewhere safe. Safe is like the place where elephants go to die. It may or may not actually exist, but if it does, a whole lot of my stuff is there waiting for me.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”