Rules I Think Must Exist But Don’t

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I’ve spent way too much of my life obeying rules that don’t exist.

Where in the world does this trait come from?

For instance, I used to think that it was against the law to remove new fabric tags from mattresses and pillows. But then I realized that nobody could tell me what law it is that forbids these removals, so now they are removed at will.

Way back when, I decided to go to a Halloween party dressed as a priest (frocked as a priest?), so I went to the priest boutique—the store that sells such things as clerical garb. I hesitated at the front door, suddenly imagining that someone inside might ask for my credentials, just to make sure I was qualified and didn’t break the priest-only rules. Of course, the clerks didn’t even look me in the eye, and I walked out having purchased a collarless invisible-buttoned black shirt with the little white plastic doodad that turns you into a man of the cloth.

Once, when I realized that Whopper Juniors at Burger King looked more appetizing than their bloated  ”adult” burgers, I started to order one, then hesitated, thinking, “Oh, no, they’ll ask me if I’m young enough to order a Whopper Junior. I’ll be busted for breaking the kidburger rules.” Naturally, I passed that hurdle. Burger King folks could not care less who orders what, so long as it is paid for.

When I was a kid, movie theaters sold admissions and didn’t keep score. You could sit and watch a film as many times as you pleased, since owners were used to being daycare centers for adults and kids—much as libraries have assumed that role these days. In middle age, I watched a movie in Homewood and decided to stay to see the opening scene again. An usher calmly reminded me that the rules were different now—nowadays you have to buy a ticket for each and every showing. Slightly embarrassing to say the least.

Why do I make up rules, and why do I not know the real rules?

Many business establishments have double-door entrances. Why double doors, since there is always one door locked? It’s a contest to see which door is the locked one. I’m correct 50% of the time. What are double doors for, anyhow? The only other two-door entrances that come to mind are those swinging saloon doors, both of which always work in the movies. Cowboy movies have door rules that are different from real life door rules.


And why is it that I’m the only person around who follows the rule about opening the door for people, as a courtesy? Folks used to thank me profusely, but these days they don’t even notice that I’m doing it—they are in texting land or cellphone world and apparently think that doors just follow the law of Moses, the one about magically parting the doorway so that you don’t have to break pace.

Speaking of westerns, wouldn’t it be fun to watch two gunmen doing a fast-draw shoot-out while tweeting or texting? Results would be inconclusive, I suppose. Those guys followed rules, too—don’t draw until the count of three. Who made that one up? Being a born chicken, I would shoot, then count to three.

Staying confused about the rules of day to day living is entertaining though annoying. It’s something to whine about, but you should be grateful that I’m not pestering you about really big, serious problems. Social media allow you to mouth off about things of no importance to anyone else, and get away with it. I suppose we should be thankful for big favors

© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

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Meandering from Old to Older to Oldest and Back Again

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I have tried for many decades to figure out why people retire.

Yep, for years I thought to myself intermittently, “Why would anybody want to retire?”

I equated retirement with indolence, with bored married couples dining at the local cafeteria each night, night after night. And rarely speaking a word to each other.

Retirement meant watching too much TV and grimacing all the while, taking the garbage out a bit too often, and becoming obsessed with small patches of grass that must be trimmed at all cost. I felt that retirement would mean the end of all meaningful brain activity. Ossification would set in and I would find myself slowly becoming something horrible, like a far-right-winger or a Neighborhood Watch captain, walking around the neighborhood in khaki shorts and flip-flops and giving neighbors with noisy dogs the evil eye.

I figured I would wind up watching the ‘hood all the time, waiting for something to complain about, gazing much too much at the Weather Channel and announcing loudly to all who would eventually not listen, the latest weather possibilities, “They say we might get snow next week!”

I pictured retired people as people who had given up the good fight, stopped believing they could change the world, resigned themselves to spending way too much time spoiling grand kids and in so doing, irritating the parents of grand kids. I vowed I would never join AARP. I said I would never wear a bad toupee or say, “The kids these days!”

I even pictured retirees as people who not only had stopped making love but who had ceased even having sex.

My biggest fear was that I would be treated the same way I had inadvertently treated older people much of my younger life. That pudgy little woman with the cane could not have anything interesting to talk about. She had never been young and beautiful and full of dreamy dreams. That comb-over guy wearing the 30-year-old sports jacket had not had
anything new or interesting to say since he bought that sport coat. Those folks who needed assistance in getting over the obstacles we all placed in their way—stairs, curbs, restaurant menus with small print, poorly lit movie aisles—those folks just got in the way sometimes.

I would never be like them! I would take care of myself and make sure I did not get bald or dumpy or out of shape.

Well, you know the end of this story, and you know, in the recesses of your mind, that you will reach the end of this story just like I have.

I have become a Senior Citizen, and if you are lucky (?), you will, too.

Now, I can accept all the hilarious little bad jokes that nature has played on me, my mind, and my body. What I have not been able to adjust to, until recently, is the giving up of projects that might have changed the world.

I have learned that you can do wonderful things as a volunteer, but I have also learned that it is difficult to get other volunteers to do things your way. My rant about this is oft-repeated:

“Volunteers! You cannot discipline them. You cannot make them do anything. But once in a while, they will decide to do something good and you will have to remember to be grateful for what they do. You also have to remember to thank them.”

This should be displayed on plaques in every volunteer organization in the country.

I have learned that I no longer have to strut or try to look younger than I am, because it is perfectly obvious to everybody that I have achieved geezer status. Some of that is kind of nice. True, most younger people look right through me, as if I could not possibly be important to their lives. But some of them, a few, actually realize that I do know stuff and can help them think through things. Those who take the time seem delighted with my company, and I draw hope and ideas and energy from being with them. Something else: I no longer shun older people, because I know  that, to them, I am the younger person and can learn something from their added weathering. In turn, they seem to get a kick out of my attentiveness.

So, I guess I have obtained some good from becoming elderly.

There are not too many advantages to getting on up there in years, but there are some nice perks:

1. I am no longer expected to lift heavy objects or fix things or help people move. I do not get dirty looks when I sit down before everybody else. I even feel un-self-conscious enough to quietly excuse myself and go read a book.

2. I can see things in cycles now—something you cannot do when you are young. When you are young and having an anxiety attack, you just know the world is coming to an end and that you will not last the day. But when you are my age and are having your 421st anxiety attack (yes, you will never stop having them!), you suddenly say to yourself, “Hey, I have survived 420 of these…click!…I think I just might survive this one, too!”

3. When you are my age you are no longer suspected of having naughty thoughts, so this frees you up to have all the naughty thoughts you want, and not feel guilty about it.

4. As an S-word Citizen, I can enjoy the impatience and impertinence of younger drivers. It is fun to take my time and watch somebody else’s blood pressure go up for a change. The more that young whippersnapper honks his horn at me, the slower I am going to drive. And he will blame it on my age! Heh, heh, heh.

5. I can also pretend to forget stuff in order to get out of doing things I do not want to do. They think it is because my mind is going. Little do they know that my mind went a long time ago and I am just having fun now.

I am officially a happy old geezer. But I still do not understand why people retire

© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

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The dice of the gods are always loaded

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The early hint of pending sunrise stirs something within me and I open my eyes for a split second, just to see whether I’m really awake or just dreaming another neverending dream about waking up.

Looks like a new day is about to occur.

I turn over on my side and hug the pillow, wishing for one more minute of sweet sleep, wondering if it’s still nighttime or just dark and cloudy. What time must it be? Hmmm. I punch the tiny light on the bedside alarm clock and see that it’s already 7:21 a.m.—just about the exact time that I awaken every day.

Will today be different from yesterday? I squint and try to visualize my pocket calendar. What was I supposed to do on the way to work this morning? Maybe make a bank deposit, perhaps purchase a new supply of MoonPies for the shop, drop off the laundry…things like that.

I lie suspended, backtiming my schedule from 10:30 a.m. when the bookstore doors must open, to right now. Each chore will take a certain amount of time to accomplish. If I don’t dawdle, I should be able to get everything done by then, plus do all the rituals: shower, brush, dry, primp, dress, greet Liz, pack a lunchbag, take out the trash, jumpstart the station wagon.

All told, everything will take exactly enough time to fill the period between 7:21 and 10:30. It always does.

How does this work?

Well, it’s kind of like life, isn’t it? I receive the gift of 24 hours every 24 hours. It’s groundhog day every day, with variations.

If I always have 24 hours to use, how come I conjure up carloads of excuses for NOT having 24 hours? I hear myself and others saying, “I don’t have time to read anymore.” “I want to write but I just don’t have time.” “Someday, when I get the time, I want to learn to play chess.” “I ran out of time and didn’t get to it.” “Time flies.” “I need an extra hour in the day.” “Where does the time go?” And so on.

Sounds like I use this made-up construct, TIME, as my excuse for everything I don’t get done. It’s pretty handy, a universally applied technique for not fulfilling potential.

So, what is my point? By now, I should be saying something sage to clear up this tangled mess of thoughts, something you and I can take with us and ruminate over during the available 24 hours.

I guess I’m just chastising myself, reminding myself to stop making excuses for not having enough time. For every hour that I waste channel-surfing or facebooking or tweeting, I could be fulfilling my dream of writing the Great American Book page by page by page. For every hour I spend gossiping or idly chatting or taking up with people I’m supposed to take up with (as opposed to those I really WANT to take up with), I could be addressing the hundredfold procrastinated projects I know should be tackled. But my addiction to wasting chunks of 24 hours seems pervasive and difficult to lick.

So, what about that interval between 7:21 and 10:30? If I weren’t afraid to accomplish many things outside my comfort zone, I could do twice as much and make myself proud. For instance, I could stop for three minutes and write Liz a love note. I could pause and exchange pleasantries with the elderly man passing by the house. I could clean out the back seat of the wagon so that it didn’t have the appearance of a thrift store cart. I could lope around the block and work on reducing my Pillsbury Doughboy waistline.

Dream on.

It’s so comfortable to follow a routine each day, stretching it out in order not to face utilizing time wisely.

The only way I can make myself feel better about this situation is to make time-squandering my full-time vocation. I could tell folks that it is my profession, this stretching out of time, this meandering to avoid taking life head-on.

If I convince myself of this fabricated truth, then I can feel comfortable and satisfied that life is great and that I’m living the 7:21 dream to its fullest.

Time-squanderers of the world, unite and proceed! So far, we’re doing a great job

© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed

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