Wondering whether I was becoming an extremely old-fashioned guy - a fogey - I gathered eight older fellows, let's call them "geezers," around a table at a local restaurant to query them about the problems of aging. The question I asked them was "How do you know if you're becoming a fogey?"

Fred said, "I think I'm starting to look silly in the clothes I like best - you know, old dungarees and T-shirts. You've seen those Bugle Boy ads? I look like an ad for Tuba Man. Now I'm wearing fogey stuff. Lately I've started thinking about buying a bathrobe and those slippers that slide along the linoleum making a sqush-sqush sound that only dogs and Art Linkletter can hear."

"And I no longer care what my underwear looks like. If it has holes and the waistband looks like it's been chewed on by my poodle, so what? I've pretty much given up on the notion that Britney Spears is going to drop by."

Herman remarked, "People nowadays speak in such low tones that I can't hear them very well." Stretching to hear him, Chester added that he's beginning to hear his body "pop" when he stands up from his recliner. "I sound like a breakfast cereal," he said, adding, "Geez, they're really making defective furniture nowadays."

Paul's prominent problem is small print. He said, "To read a typed letter, I have to stretch my arms out like I'm playing a trombone. Newspapers are getting farther away when I hold them, and I have to squint to make them out. During the past few years, I've noticed that it's getting harder to read books and magazines the way I'd always read them before - in the same room as me."

Jim added: "Last month I bought a watch and when I got it home, I noticed it had a small dark spot on the right side of the face that I must have missed at the store. I rubbed and rubbed it with glass cleaner, but it didn't come out. Then my daughter told me it wasn't a spot, it was the date. So she bought me a pair of reading glasses at the supermarket. I want to be comfortable reading something smaller than the top E on an eye chart," he concluded. Everyone agreed that "old-people glasses" were a sure sign of creeping fogeyism.

Ted said: "My problem is that they don't use the same material in clothes any more. All my shirts and trousers have a tendency to shrink, especially in certain places such as around my waist or in the seat of the pants. And the laces they put in shoes are getting harder to reach."

Fritz noted that revolving doors at the airport are revolving much faster than they used to and that he's finding the obituary columns in the newspaper more interesting.

Chester claimed that the weather is changing a lot and that he'd go away if it weren't so far and that the rain nowadays seems wetter than the rain we used to get.

Jack confessed, "I've gotta be a fogey. I recently answered a senior personal ad that read 'Long-term commitment: Recent widow who has just buried fourth husband looking for someone to round out a six-unit plot. Dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath not a problem.' Sounded like me!" he concluded.

Then I chimed in, noting how people have changed so much. They're younger than they used to be when I was their age. I told them about going back to my college class reunion in 2000, only to be shocked by the mere tots they're admitting as students nowadays. The average age of the freshman class couldn't have been more than seven. Several undergraduates called me "Sir" and one of them asked me if he could help me across the street.

On the other hand, people my own age are so much older than I am. While people my age are approaching middle age, that period between 21 and 110, there's no excuse for my classmates tottering into a state of advanced senility.

While I was shaving one recent morning, I starting thinking about all those old classmates at the reunion and the local boys I talked to around that restaurant table. Then, I stopped for a moment and looked at my own reflection in the mirror. Geez. They don't seem to use the same kind of glass in mirrors any more.

Contact columnist Robert Brake at oobear@pacifier.com

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