Learning About Being Old

There is a great deal of advice out there about the aging process, but I find that I keep making mistakes anyway.

To help avoid those mistakes, I’ve come up with a new (for me anyway) 3-step set of guiding principles I find necessary to repeat any time I am upright and attempting to move from one place to another; i.e., walk. Pretty simple: 1) watch where you’re going, 2) slow down, and 3) watch where you’re going.

To illustrate the importance of chanting this 3-step mantra, consider the fact that I have injured myself by falling to the ground (or concrete) 4 times in the last 12 months, 3 of those 4 in the last 4 months. To be precise, and to salve my injured pride, I just fall down because my legs didn’t work. Honest – I tripped on things that made me fall.

Fall #1: tripped in the garage on a box of books to be donated. Result: 3 stitches above left eyebrow and an eye that looked like I’d gone 20 seconds with Floyd Mayweather. Failure to watch where I was going. (Told by older son it was my fault for attempting to give away books.)

Fall #2: tripped over an air intake pipe for one of those bouncy things at kids’ parties while pretending to be about 72 years younger. Result: x-ray of right shoulder and 6 physical therapy sessions. Moving too fast and failure to watch where I was going.

Fall #3: tripped because my sandal got caught under the screen door on my way out of the side entrance to the garage. Result: dislocated fingers and 21 stitches in my right hand (pretty sure I tried to break my fall by grabbing the corner of the small concrete pad just outside the garage door, but not certain). Moving too fast.

Fall #4: (notice the irony) tripped over one of those concrete things that keep you from driving your car too far in a parking space, after parking in a handicapped spot while attempting to exit the parking lot and enter the local health club. Result: big-time injured pride, cuts and bruises, reinjured right hand fingers, and didn’t make it to yoga. Moving too fast and failure to watch where I was going.

Trips and falls #1-3 required professional medical attention; so far we’re relying on first aid the #4.

Things seem to be improving, but again it’s the learning about being old that kicks in. Wasn’t too long ago these sorts of minor things would be shaken off with some Ben-Gay and exercise. Now it’s 4-6 weeks.

What got me going on all this: a) the most unwelcome movies of these events apparently trapped forever in the theater of my mind, and b) the set of bills for #3, which required a visit to the emergency room.

First the movies. Can’t seem to stop playing them. Which in a way is good because it remings to watch where I’m going, slow down, and watch where I’m going.

Finally, the bills. The emergency room bill for trip and fall #3 came to $10,713.00. No kidding. The bill includes (I’ve rounded the charges to the nearest $1) 2 hand x-rays ($800), CT scans of the head and spine ($5,400), a standard emergency “Level IV” visit ($3,100), treat finger dislocation ($678), 2 pain killer tablets ($11), and a few other charges but my fingers have started hurting because I’m typing too much.

Near as I can compute, and computing this number from my Medicare Advantage company’s 10 pages of a “user-friendly” report, my plan has approved a payment of $404.72, or $10,308.28 less than the hospital has on its “itemization of services provided.”

I’m sure I haven’t heard the end of this; there will be some co-pays popping up at some point. My plan documents tell me I’ll owe $75 just for thinking about going to the emergency room (just kidding). I’ll get a bill for $75 and some on the itemization list the insurance doesn’t cover, but it can’t possibly add up to $10,308.28.

If it does I’ll see y’all when I offer you a smile and a shopping cart at WalMart. And I’ll be reminding the older folks (and myself) to watch where you’re going and slow down. For the nest 10 years if I live that long…..

Good grief.

(Note: A few readers have asked why I often, nearly always, end my musings with “Good grief.” It’s a favorite expression of the Charlie Brown character in the comic strip “Peanuts,” and that character and his combat with life’s challenges have always reminded me of, well, my own challenges.)


Are You Famous?

When the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) opened in Williamsburg, Virginia, back in the early 70’s, a huge celebration marked the event. President Nixon and Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in a horse-drawn carriage, led a parade of state appellate judges and administrators from all 50 states as it wound through Colonial Williamsburg to the new NCSC building.

I was one of the administrators in the Michigan delegation. About half way through the parade, I felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of my suitcoat and looked down to see a girl about the age of my younger daughter (maybe 5). She asked me “Are you famous?” and I told her the famous people were up front in the carriage.

Her mother apologized for the interruption, and I told her no apology was necessary. Pointing to the others in our group, I said we were all parents and loved it when the little ones surprised us.

(The National Center for State Courts is a non-profit organization charged with improving judicial administration in the United States and around the world.)

A Quick, One Question Quiz

A Quick, One Question Quiz

Who is the author of the following definition of consensus?

Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: I stand for consensus?”

(No fair looking it up…..)

a. Ronald Reagan

b. Donald J. Trump

c. Margaret Thatcher

d. Franklin D. Roosevelt

e. Winston Churchill

f. George W. Bush

g. None of the above

h. All of the above

Answer: c       I look forward to your comments.

The White Castle Caper(s)

Warning: unless you have wolfed down at 6 sliders, aka “Whitey One-Bites,” at a sitting at least 12 times, you probably shouldn’t read this – it might be catching.

A few years ago – OK – over 60 years ago, some pals and I would buy 3 or 4 sacks of sliders for about 10 cents each, roughly 12 sliders, a sack, and sneak into the Southtown theater (63rd St., near Halstead, South Chicago). We’d set out sentries to watch for ushers, then when the coast was clear we’d escort the sacks, with the irresistable White Castle slider scent emanating from same, down the aisle until somebody asked “How much?”

We’d done it so often we had repeat customers.

We’d make about 15 cents a slider and use the money for popcorn, Pepsi, Charleston Chew candy bars, and more sliders when the show let out.

Today, happiness is finding a box of 6 White Castle sliders in the frozen food section at Aldi, then racing home to microwave and eat them while watching football and the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.

Aside from concluding the women’s doubles championship was much more artistic and interesting than the men’s singles (blast the ball back and forth until somebody misses a shot), it was great.

Caution: you have to add your own dill pickle slice.

Social Media and the Wit and Wisdom on Facebook

Sometimes Facebook serves as something to occupy me while I’m on hold with my doctor’s office or waiting for a voicemail prompt that actually has something to do with why I’m calling.

And then there are those times when a Facebook post smacks me right in the area that is rumored to contain something capable of rational thought.  Two such posts just got me:

1)  Paraphrased: Those folks worried about destroying history by tearing down Confederate statues will be thrilled to learn about books, and 

2)  Also paraphrased: In July of 1776 a bunch of New Yorkers tore down a statue of George III, thereby making it impossible to learn who won the Revolutionary War.

This social media thing just might have a future……

Attention All Hackers!

We now have a distinguished (“very distinguished”), appointed Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity.

I can’t help being surprised, very surprised, that our President is still claiming massive, very massive, voter fraud.  There are dozens of excellent, very excellent, studies and research papers on the subject.  A simple, very simple, search using the phrase “voter fraud” produced a large, very large, number of hits (6,080,000), among which are various, very various, conclusions that voter fraud is statistically insignificant, very insignificant.

But insignificance is not my main, very main, concern today.  I can only wonder what a group of appointed members of an advisory committee might do with the records of (200 million?) voters.  Send them a postcard asking for proof of life?  Ask the ones who chose to register as Democrats or Independents whether they might want to make a switch?  Make those records available to already drooling, very drooling, cyber crooks making plans to grab all that information for their new, very new, credit cards, bank accounts, etc.?

Can’t help being concerned, very concerned.  (And yes, I’m imitating the style of the almost daily, very almost daily, barrage of tweets from, well, you know…..)  Puts me in mind of “Rain Man,” who said such things as: “I’m a good driver. I’m a very good driver.”  Or Demi Moore in “A Few Good Men,” who, upon hearing the judge deny her objection, said: “But your Honor, I strenuously object,” which of course didn’t persuade the judge to reconsider his ruling.

Still, I strenuously object to creating a new and massive pile of personal, very personal, information in the office of a newly appointed advisory commission.  Do they even have an office?

Too Many Words

A few years ago I came across a newspaper article titled something along the lines of: “Random Word Generator for Managers.”  The article included a lengthy table containing several columns of words one could choose to produce a phrase that sounded quite impressive but meant almost nothing.

In today’s world we are able to search the web using “Random Phrase Generator” and come up with dozens of entries claiming to produce intelligent-sounding phrases one might use to impress readers.

The late, great Elmore Leonard often advised aspiring writers to “Leave out the parts people don’t want to read,” and became successful doing just that in a long list of western and crime novels, many of which became movies.

I thought of all this a few days ago when I read this description in our local newspaper: “dynamic zero-depth aquatic play area.”  I am in awe of the skill it takes to use those six words to say “sprayground,” which is the word used in the master plan developed by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee I served on for a couple of years.

My vote was one of the unanimous cast by the Committee to approve, among many other things, “spraygrounds” (I think it was 3 or 4 of them).  A sprayground is a plot of ground outfitted with water jets that are programmed to go off at random.  The idea is for children to run through the plot to laugh, get wet, and cool off, in that order, when the water shoots out.

It’s a great idea, cheaper than a pool, easier to use, safer, and less expensive to maintain, and I probably would still have voted for it, but if they’d called it a “dynamic zero depth aquatic play area” I’m certain we would have wasted some time trying to figure out what that meant.  Really.