Thursday, January 31, 2013

No ROTF today, just more Being Old

          Pushing the cart through Wegman’s yesterday, I felt a tap on my shoulder. 
          “Excuse me, but watch out, your left shoelace is untied.”
I started glancing around for some place to sit down--or just possibly I could reach down if there were some way to prop up my foot, but no luck -- and then the voice went on,
“Can I tie it for you?”
I turned to look.  It might have been more bearable if she were a teenager, but she had white hair and a young face-- maybe in her 50s or 60s.  I could not think of anything more humiliating than having her stoop to tie my shoe and yet…no way could I risk a fall.
I find myself unable to finish telling you this story.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Classified Ads Long Gone

When I’ve run through the rest of the morning paper, always including the obituaries, I’ve been known to end up reading the classified ads.  Anything to put off getting up.  And there’s lots of sociology in both places, though I didn’t know enough to call it that when I was a child.  I still remember wondering why – in the 1930s -- some “Help Wanted—Male”  ads in the Boston Globe  included the words “No Irish need apply.”  We won’t see that again in a hurry.
We won’t see many of the ads that used to make the “Personals” so fascinating either.  These days people searching for birth families or old loves are busy google-ing.  People searching for new loves are on the Internet typing in all kinds of lies.  And someone who’s moving will probably put the frig up for sale on Craig’s List.
It’s nice to see, though, that newspapers still seem to have plenty of classifieds in two categories – automobiles and pets.  Though come to think of it, there’s one ad under “Pets” that I haven’t seen for many years now –
“Free to good home, adorable kittens.”
Nothing is the same any more -- so do cats actually cost money now?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting Older

This blog was supposed to be about Growing Old.  Not about getting older – every one of you does that, no big deal – but about getting genuinely old.  Problem is, I keep getting distracted  But there are new developments all the time.  So from here on out, every other post will be devoted to news flashes about what it’s like up here.  Don’t look for chuckles on those days, gang.

Kids visit from Vancouver
So here’s for today:  I don’t drive the Smart in snow (light weight, rear-wheel drive.)  It should be started every couple of weeks, though, just to keep the battery happy.  I learned that the hard way, and when the AAA man came to jump-start it, we had quite at time just finding the battery. You wouldn’t believe where it’s located in the Smart – and the panel covering it is made of Styrofoam, by the way.  
       So anyhow, a couple of days ago I scraped the driver’s door clean and turned on the engine.  Knowing I’d probably forget to go out and turn it off in 20 minutes, I cleverly set not one but two timers that sit here on my desk (use them mostly for remembering when the washer or dryer needs tending.)
        One timer rang 20 minutes later.  I felt smug about  how efficiently  I had compensated for the memory power I’m losing – and went on typing (or whatever one calls it these days... keyboarding?)  A few seconds later the second one started dinging.  I shut it off without taking my eyes from the screen.
        And if someone hadn’t rung my doorbell a couple of hours later, and I hadn’t happened to glance down the driveway – well, it would have been kind of interesting to see how long before the car used up its full tank of gas, all eight gallons.
        I warned you – getting old is interesting, but don’t expect a barrel of laughs. 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Land of Nod

Anyone remember Chessie?
     This won’t come as a particularly interesting news flash for most of you, but the blog is supposed to be aimed at the more august among us, and I do want to share this exciting bit with our older readers:  Never lose faith.  It is possible, gang, even if only once a year. 
      Last night I slept eight hours, right through.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Enemy Within

   There was a time when 1984 seemed a long time in the future, and the concept of Big Brother seeing into one’s very soul was far-fetched.
    But now-- Okay, we’ve known for a long time that the library has a list of all the books you’ve checked out. Or maybe it doesn’t – it seems some libraries stopped keeping those records after Monica Lewinsky’s book preferences were subpoenaed during the Bill Clinton kerfuffle. Amazon, though – they know everything I’ve ordered, going way back, including whatever library books I’ve downloaded to my Kindle.
    And yes, the supermarket keeps track of all our tastes, by offering a supposed discount if we swipe through those membership cards. You have to wonder if anyone ever pays full price. When I forget my discount card, an obliging checkout clerk – or the customer standing behind me – usually offers a substitute one, just to hurry things up.
   And of course there’s the constant threat of someone taking long-distance control of your computer to read all your secrets and hack into those convenient Internet banking records.
    But yesterday I was brought up short by the discovery of a new and totally unsuspected Enemy Within. I went for a routine call-back at the Hearing Center, (yes, more loss in the past year, thank you). Then my hearing aids were attached to a computer, and the doctor said cheerfully, “Well, I don’t have to scold you for not wearing them enough; I see that you keep them on about 10 hours a day. And I’m glad to know the hearing loss isn’t slowing you down – you’re still going to restaurants, lectures…” I forget what else she said, what else was listed on the screen in front of us, because I was so stunned.
    My very own hearing aids, those innocent-looking inch-long traitors, have been spying on me. It seems that every time they adjusted themselves for a different environment, they made a note of it. For all I know, they’ve been forwarding all my conversations to the FBI.
   Do you think I should sue? Surely that should have been disclosed at the start?
   Or maybe they did tell me, but I didn’t hear.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Early to Bed

           With that first exciting VCR, there was never a need to record anything late-night, because nothing was on.  In our town we had our choice of three stations--in fact after Educational Television got organized, we had four!  We fiddled with the rabbit ears until I forget -- eleven? midnight? and then a waving black-and-white flag (48 stars) appeared on the screen, and sign-off concluded with a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
          After which, if you were still up, you could fool around with the horizontal and vertical holds, trying to make that Indian Head test pattern as round as possible. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

and about that VCR

With what affection I look back to that first VCR!  (What did those letters stand for?  Video of course, and Recorder, but what was that "C"?) 
If you wanted to record a show, you turned it on and PRESSED A BUTTON.  There was also a button for re-winding, and one for playing the tape. 
But what, I hear you ask, if you wanted to record something that wouldn't come on till you were out of the house?  Simple, you just left the tv broadcasting the right channel, and pushed another button that changed the recording speed so the tape would run for -- here memory fails me -- was it six hours or eight hours?  Either way, your program would be in there somewhere when you got home.  And -- okay, I'm remembering now -- there was also a fast-forward button to help you find it. 
Counting the on-off button, that makes seven buttons.  Was it simply because I was younger that I remember learning how to do all this was VERY EASY? The older I get, the more often I remember son Avi's warning:

"Whenever you hear the words 'to serve you better' -- watch out!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

First on the Block

Norm loved electronics, built our first hi-fi record player from a Heath kit.  Brought home the first hand-held transistor radio my friends and I had ever seen. (We all agreed it’d be great to keep in a fallout shelter – people were actually building those in suburban back yards in the 1950s.)  Our house was the first one with a VCR too.
And a generation before that, my father had the same love for anything new.  I remember when he brought home a box of  something called Kleenex, "The handkerchief you can throw away!"  I was in the kitchen in the house in Malden, so it must have been no later than 1936.   Still during the Depression, in the days when if we got hold of a one-cent stick of gum, my sister and I would tear it in half and share it.
Those paper handkerchiefs were an exciting idea, but we could see they were a wasteful two-ply.  How carefully we pulled that first one apart to make two out of it! Nor did another expensive box show up in our house for many years.  We used cotton handkerchiefs.
          Whatever became of ladies’ handkerchiefs?  They used to be  quite an art form.   And in an emergency you could get away with not ironing one, if you plastered it up to dry on the outside of the hot water tank that sat in the kitchen next to the cast-iron stove.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Big Excitement

          One problem with living alone – there’s no use bursting in the door and yelling “you’ll never guess what happened!?”  But I’ve just got to share it with someone, so here goes--
          I went to the seniors luncheon today, and in the three Bingo games that always follow dessert, I WON THE SECOND GAME!!  How about that?         
           For my prize (yes, we have prizes!) I got a Hershey bar.  I did resolve, recently, not to buy any more chocolate bars, but that’s okay, because you’ll notice I didn't buy it.
And after having finished a perfectly good lunch, once I got in the car I opened it up and before I got to Wegman’s, I’d eaten the whole thing.  210 calories. 
 Full disclosure, I’d also been listening to a library book on the car’s CD--“Joseph Anton”, Salmon Rushdie’s account of his years in hiding.  Yes, I was doing two other things while driving.  Good thing I wasn’t pulled over.  But I knew I wouldn't be -- this is obviously my lucky day.
    I should really go out and buy a lottery ticket!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Worst Four Words in the World

Alexander Graham Bell
That telephone may look somewhat primitive to you.  Just think of all the progress we've made since then! And now we've reached the point where a machine can actually say to you those four nasty words:
              "We appreciate your patience."

     Do I have to say anything more? You know what I mean.  I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach just from writing those words. As you know, they repeat every 45 seconds, which means that after 15 minutes on hold, you’ve heard them 20 times. (That’s an off-hand guess. I haven’t got the patience to check the division. My patience disappeared 14 minutes ago.) And the most annoying part of the whole thing is some computer’s bland assumption that you HAVE any patience left.
      Then when you finally hear that "this call may be recorded" you just know the next voice you hear – a real voice! – a pleasant voice! -- will tell you that you’ve reached the wrong department, but it's okay, you’re about to be forwarded. After which the line goes silent for six seconds, and then you get that hang-up buzzing.
     I’d like to finish with a snappy ending here, but –and I AM NOT KIDDING – the painful feeling in my stomach is getting worse, so I’ll have to hang up on you.
Have a nice day!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Senior Scam

          I’m not proud of myself for staying on the phone for five full minutes yesterday, struggling to understand that out-sourced woman’s voice.  I should have suspected the scam right away.  But here are my excuses, four factors working against me:  First off, she knew my name – “Is this Aye-DEET?”
          ·        And these days any sort of accent throws me, so I was busy being apologetic  “sorry, it’s not your fault, but could you speak more slowly…what did you say…could you please repeat that?”
·        Also, it develops that I’m particularly vulnerable because, I learned later, the whole operation is designed to snare older victims.
·        And having just struggled with a new computer, I was unusually receptive to such words as I could make out…“Tech department of Microsoft… we are receiving error reports from your computer…I can get you a better connection…are you sitting at your computer... I’ll tell you what to do.”
Fortunately, I gave up at that point and hung up in frustration.  I like to think I would have quit even if I was hearing clearly, before she directed me to give her my credit card number and download some nasty stuff, and even to give her control of my computer altogether.  Instead, I emailed son Dov, who had set up this new computer when he was here over the holidays, and he did some googling.
So just in case you hear from her, be advised that Microsoft has issued a statement that says – among other things – that they don’t keep track of where error messages come from.  Their tech department does not call people.  Etc etc.
I publish this in hopes of reaching my original intended audience -- folks old enough to know better. 
It's my Public Service Announcement.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Multi-Tasked Meds

So today I got a refill on all my meds.  And while I was picking up the prescriptions, I invested in 13 of these weekly pill holders.  Now I have 26, the new transparent ones for morning pills, the older collection of various colors (some were Norm’s) for evening pills.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about —avoiding daily fuss (and mistakes)  by portioning out the whole 90 days in advance.

I moved the operation to the kitchen table so I could keep the tv on.  I know, I know, but it’s an extremely boring job.  When I was a kid we were scolded for listening to the radio while you’re doing your homework.  Now, of course, it’s dignified by the appellation multi-tasking.

        The whole thing took an hour and 15 minutes, and I feel luxuriously rich with everything all set for the next 13 weeks.  This avoids any danger of medication mix-ups.
        Unless of course I made some error here. 
        In which case I’ll have 90 days of mistakes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How Firm a Foundation (Ye Saints of the Lord)

You may remember the computer file with the packing list from which I've never deleted anything?  One of the items on it is girdle.  Evidently I was still struggling into those contraptions (officially known as  foundation garments) when I started that file in the 1980s. 
              Those things hanging down, kids, are garters (in Britain,  suspenders.)  They held up the stockings.  Some of you may never have seen stockings either.  They were replaced by pantyhose, which might have had something to do with the demise of the girdle, come to think of it.
               Pantyhose themselves may be on the way out these days.  Far as I can see, it's bare-legged in the summer now, and tights in the winter.  The world marches on, leaving girdles and stockings back in the Dark Ages.  But if you search on eBay under its classy word for "old" and "used", you'll find that people are actually bidding on and buying "vintage girdles".   Maybe it's collectors -- remember the beginning of "Cold Comfort Farm"?
               Today I see ads for an exciting new invention that sure looks like what we knew as the panty girdle, except that it is disguised with a super-cute name, something along the order of Spanky? Spunky? or maybe just Silly. I predict failure for this undertaking. We’ve come a long way, baby, and I don't see us going back.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Time Marches On

 To finish up the social history embedded in that Word packing list file from which I’ve never deleted anything  (Packing Archeology, Dec 2012):  We can cross off  the sand toys. Nobody in the family young enough for that any more. I should also delete slips, though the word does bring back memories.  I remember standing there and ironing rayon slips.   At least there doesn’t seem any need to pack petticoats.  If I remember right they didn’t last much beyond the ‘50s.
           Today the list contains items that weren’t even invented when it started.  Don’t forget, it says, to take: cell phone, charger, and       talk about signs of the times –
           hearing aid batteries, meds, folding cane, handicap parking sticker.
            Don't know if you're old enough to remember this, but  --                                 Time Marches On.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Modern Marvel

In 1969 our son Dov went off to college with his grandfather's slide rule.  That was an exquisite instrument, as it happens.   But four years later we resolved to replace it with a spectacular  graduation present, one of the new hand-held calculators.  It wasn't this vintage one, I know.  This one looks as if it may have eight digits, and I know ours had only six.  And -- it's hard to tell -- this one might have a decimal point.  Dov's did not; he had to estimate that on his own.  This one, though, lacks the most important function we wanted.  Yes, we could have found a less expensive one, but we paid extra for an instrument that CALCULATED SQUARE ROOTS!!  It cost $125, and those were good dollars, the equivalent of about $400 today.

Last year I saw a hand-held calculator in the Dollar Store for -- yes, $1.   And yes, it did square roots.
Didn't bother to buy it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Fry Short

     At first it was amusing as I started to make more blunders -- one day I made five mistakes before breakfast!  But it's turning into an embarassing part of getting old.
      My grandfather was a bricklayer, and a hundred years ago I'd have admitted I was becoming one brick short of a load.  Then when I was a kid and boys spent quite a bit of time stooping over circles traced in the dirt, it would have been doesn't have all her marbles.  (What ever happened to marbles?  I'll bet my grandsons don't even know how to play marbles.)
       Recently it's likely to be elevator doesn't run to the top floor, dullest knife in the drawer or light on but nobody's home.  And now I understand the most up-to-date description of this condition is


 one fry short of a Happy Meal.