Op-Ed: THE IDLE AMERICAN: Facts of later life

Published 12:56 am Monday, August 24, 2020

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Don Newbury

It seems like only yesterday that my friend Roy McQueen thought himself to be “middle-aged.” Oh, he knows that life spans would need to reach three digits for this to be a literal truth.

So, he’s attempting to glide under the radar, figuring that if others don’t bring up the age thing, why should he?

But “others” are…

There are delicate moments, usually not intended to be. “Delicate” is in the mind of the beholder. We get the “you go first” through the door treatment. We get enough unwarranted “sirs” in front to balance out the hateful honks from behind.

Those who’ve attained “senior status” several years ahead of McQueen have “memory winces” with him.

“Of course you’ll get your 10% senior discount,” cashiers assure before they’re asked. Such “call ‘em the way they see ‘em” statements hurt the first few times when hasty judgments are based on appearances.

“You’re really in pretty good shape for a person your age,” doctors mention, thinking this to provide encouragement.

For a person your age?” Is it so important to qualify the judgment?

If physicians would omit these five words, they might be able to squeeze in two or three more patients on each day’s schedule.

Anyways, our friend got a good jolt a while back when he and wife Bettie were invited to drive 100 miles (on the crows’ aerial maps) to “sit” with their two grandchildren.

They love such assignments, often responding with little notice.

Upon arrival, they learned that the kids wanted hamburgers, so their granddad motored down to the hamburger joint. It was a nice evening, and he felt quite dapper in his bright red shirt.

Waiting with others in the take-out line, he made a sobering observation. He was the oldest customer in view–by far.

“The crowd looked college-age or younger,” McQueen admitted. “They were talking non-stop, to each other and into cell phones. I wondered if I dared ask about a senior discount.”

No problemo! The discount was extended without his asking. Smiling, he paid the ticket, leaving a “generous” 15% tip. McQueen whistled a happy tune on the drive back to the waiting grandkids.

At a traffic light, his eyes locked on two words scrawled on the hamburger bag: “old/red.”

So that’s how they made sure he got the right order. “The burgers were for the old guy in the red shirt,” he analyzed.

His face reddening to the tint of his shirt, he thought of returning to the restaurant to retract the tip. But no, too many kids waiting for their burgers would use “old/red to begin phone text messages about the old guy in the red shirt who wanted his tip back.

The whole deal made his hair hurt, but he is learning to “make do.” We’d better, right?

On our recent cruise to the Mexican Riviera, we saw 150 or so wait staff personnel in the “make do” mode in the dining room. As is their custom on the first night at sea, they break into song. The selection usually is the signature work from the opera “Tosca,” O Sole Mio.

And they always sing it in Italian, since all officers on Carnival vessels are Italian. On this night, the selection was directed toward Captain Pierluigi Lanaro and his staff.

I noticed that Lanaro managed a weak smile. Maybe his lips quivered; I know he squirmed.

The captain, of course, speaks Italian fluently.

Members of the Pride’s crew, numbering 930, are from 67 countries. None of the wait staff, however, is from Italy. So their “singing in Italian” is several octaves from “fluent.”

It is amazing, really, how cruise ship personnel seem so ready to make vacationers feel so comfortable. I know of no industry where all employees, up and down the line, are so well-trained.

Cruises also offer dozens of excursions at ports of call. Typically, the guides are well-versed, ready to spew statistics. On our excursion in Mazatlan, one response was disjointed.

Our guide, no more than “so-so” in conversational English, was asked about religions in the area. “We’re 89 per cent Catholic and 11 per cent alcoholic,” she laughed.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com   Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com