Trouble with Old People | August 2018

No Worries

by Steve Van Auken


There is no shortage of things for the aging person to worry about. If we are ever at a loss, there are professionals—joint replacement doctors, certified financial planners—with bad news on demand.

The good news is that there are things we don’t have to worry about anymore. My peer group and I have aged-out of some life problems that once loomed large.

For example, I don’t have to worry about acquiring any more bad habits. There just isn’t time. Take smoking. Smokers have all kinds of bits of business they have taken years to learn. Like how to field-strip a butt, or how to light-up in a strong wind. I would have to take a course at the community college to have any hope of learning to be a smoker. And I’m guessing that smoking would be one of the easier bad habits to learn.

I have no worries about Reaching my Potential. This was something dear to the heart of Mr. Yerovich, my high school guidance counselor. I think he had a vision of one of us standing in Stockholm, pausing to acknowledge Findlay High School before accepting the Nobel Prize. Mr. Yerovich was a fine man. I hope he would not be too disappointed to learn that the only way I’ve reached my potential is in the amount of time I can spend drinking coffee and reading mystery novels.

I don’t have to think anymore about Being Cool. I’m not saying I ever was cool, just that I thought about it. It’s kind of a relief that cool has left the building. The closest I come to worrying about being cool is trying not to pee on my shoes.

I no longer have nightmares about having to Diagram a Sentence. For younger readers: Students were once required to know an adverb from an adjective, a verb from a noun. In English class, starting in the 7th grade, we could be Called to the Board at any moment to dissect and label sentences dripping with prepositional phrases. Take a moment to feel the horror.

I do have to worry about not really being able to operate a computer. But at least I no longer have to be ashamed of not knowing how to use a slide-rule. Thought experiment: Bill Gates spent $30 million to build his house, based upon wealth he accumulated selling computer software. How big would his house be if he had been selling slide-rules instead?

At one time there was a subject called handwriting, otherwise known as cursive. I am grateful that I am no longer expected to know how to write a cursive capital Q. Any teacher had the power to Grade your Handwriting. Even math teachers. We were assured that employers looked carefully at every job candidate’s handwriting. (“General Eisenhower, you have distinguished yourself in every aspect of your military career. We, the Joint Chiefs, were about to place you in charge of all American forces. However, your handwriting sample…”) Generations of students learned to write book reports that contained no sentences starting with Q because no one knew how to write it.

I no longer need to worry about having a low draft lottery number. Hint to younger readers: Do not ask a man of the Viet Nam War era about his draft number unless you have no particular place to be for the next few hours.

The most common nightmare among older people who attended college is the one where you realize this is the day to turn in your term paper, and you completely forgot about it. Or maybe you dream a variant of that, in which you signed up for a class but never attended and now you can’t find the room. I don’t wake up anxious from this dream anymore because all my college cares about is persuading me to sign up for a cruise down some canal in Holland. Which I would do in a heartbeat if they ever found out about that term paper.

I don’t worry about learning the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Let the Highly Effective People learn my damn habits.

I am especially glad not to have to worry about Structuring my Resume. Apparently it isn’t enough these days to list the jobs you’ve had. No, you are supposed to color-code them or something to capture the interest of the hiring specialist. My view is, if she needed her work to be so interesting, she should have gone into skydiving instead of human resources.

And then there is this. I don’t expect ever again to have someone try to get me to do some thankless task because it will Look Good on my Resume. If my resume wanted to look good, it would exercise more. It is happy the way it is.