Biff America: A chilling effect of age (column)
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
That quote by Robert Frost speaks to the revelations that the years provide. For instance, I spent the better part of last Thursday afternoon with my fly down and I’m here to say it was a learning experience.
Only in Colorado can you spend the morning backcountry skiing in foot-deep powder and then do around-town chores later in the day on your motor scooter.
After getting out of my ski clothing and scraping off four layers of drool and sunscreen with a putty knife, I headed out to do long-neglected errands. I went first to my bank to cash some checks and thank them for their recent letter, which “pre-rejected” me for a loan. There is a teller there who is always very patient with my lack of math skills on my deposit slips. She laughs at my jokes and doesn’t complain when I rummage through the lollypop bowl pulling out all the grape pops.
From there I went to the local coffee shop where I informed the owner how smooth his place runs on his day off. He complimented me on the good work I, and fellow town council members, have done in regards to our support of local nonprofits. I thanked him but mentioned it was only made possible with the upcoming implementation of the new “caffeine tax” (I was kidding).
Once fortified with high-test java, I had the energy to head to the post office in hopes of picking up a package. When I say “in hopes” it is because living in the High Country package delivery is as reliable as our president on a polygraph.
Here is how it works in my hometown: You order something from Amazon and have to decide if you want it delivered to your P.O. box or home. If you say P.O. box it often takes longer and you have to wait in line to pick it up. If you request FedEx or UPS home delivery, if all goes well they deliver it to your home. But often online outlets, without notice, will ship it a cheaper way allowing carriers to deliver packages to the nearest post office assuming that they will take it the rest of the way to your home. But rather than look up the post office box that is registered to a particular name, since the package only has your physical address, the post office simply refuses delivery and it gets shipped back.
This time my package arrived and I high-fived the postal employee.
In celebration I went to the grocery store and bought some beet chips and kale cookies that my wife makes me buy but never seems to eat, preferring cheese puffs and Oreos.
Errands done I fired up the Vespa scooter and headed home. I noticed the ride home was much colder than the ride to town. I walked in the door to find my mate enjoying cheese puffs and she asked if I would like a bowl to put my beet chips in. The next thing she said was, “Did you know your fly is all the way down?”
Obviously, that was a rhetorical question. Of course, had I known my fly was down, I would have zipped it up. But rather than play that game I said, “Yes, I know. My pockets were full and I needed a place to put my cellphone.”
Twenty years ago I would have thought back to where I was and who I encountered while flying at half-mast. The fact that I walked around the town that way would have caused a sense of regret and embarrassment. Not now. I just zipped up and reached for the beet chips.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I’m happy I was trolling for attention for half the day, but only, in terms of the whole scheme of things, it was not a big deal … literally.
I think a product of age is perspective. When you are a young man, every mistake, broken heart, disappointment or embarrassing moment is relatively fresh and unique. As you age, it is only one of many such events that take less of a priority when compared to what is important. Health, love, happiness and not having a tumor; almost everything else is window dressing.
No one likes the effects of aging other than it beats the alternative. But that said, being slower of foot and perhaps a little stiff in the morning is the price you pay for a heightened sense of self and a boarder perception of what is worth giving concern. I don’t remember a particular age when I stopped being embarrassed by the small mistakes and foibles that we all have but seldom speak of. But somewhere along the way I have discovered none of us are without flaws and are unique in our sameness.
So the years bring perspective and diminish memory. I vowed to my mate to henceforth remember to zip up. I’m sure she’ll make sure to remind me, but if she doesn’t, the wind chill of riding a motor scooter will, at the same time, numb and refresh my memory.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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