The Trouble with Old People

Trouble With Old People | Adventures in Quarantine

by Steve Van Auken

When you hang around the house for what feels like decades at a time, you learn all kinds of things. 

I have had the blessing of time to learn more about myself. I have been able to clear up a mystery that has plagued me for years: Why do things around the house not get done? Sometimes in my darker moments I had tormented myself with the thought that maybe I was just lazy and prone to procrastination. But then I would consider all the competing demands on my time. Organization and repair projects are important, of course, but I had to go to work, and I had responsibilities to family and friends. 

Being quarantined for days in our home has cast a new light on the situation. With the noise of the outside world silenced, I can hear my own true voice at last, and I can see the real reason why vital home projects have gone undone for so long. It turns out I am lazy and prone to procrastination.

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Another thing I’ve learned is that my phone, ancient as it is, has a premier app. Apparently it was started as an early exercise in test marketing and does not appear on the display. But it works just fine and helps so much in combating family separation imposed by the virus. I’m talking about ButtTime. 

In case you have never used it, this is the app that allows you to talk with young grandkids while they are staring at you upside-down from between their legs. It also allows you to continue talking to them whenever their mom or dad leaves the room and they immediately touch all sorts of buttons and move the screen around so that you continue the vital discussion about whether the Hulk or Spider-Man would win in a fight while you are staring at their pull-ups, in light of the fact that they got out of the habit of wearing pants three months ago.

My wife and I realized early on that in order to stay mentally sharp, we needed to find a way to keep learning. A proposal that we learn how to tie knots for attaching bass-fishing lures died in committee. Christine is a better parliamentarian than I am, and she can probably recall how we settled on taking a rhumba class. It’s a little foggy in my mind. Anyway, for the last few weeks on Thursday nights, we have met with other couples to explore the depths of my personal lack of grace and learn some steps in dancing rhumba. We meet in a large room, masked, socially distant. Our teachers are skillful and attentive. Sure, some of us are in our seventies. But we have young members too: One couple is no more than 62. 

We learn together. The unspoken rule is you don’t laugh at anybody’s stumble, because the next one will be yours. We learn even though there is nowhere to use our new dance skills. Prior to quarantine, we had one outlet: Wedding receptions. During that first half-hour before all the young people, horrified, storm the DJ and make him turn off Sinatra and turn on hip-hop. That was our moment. Right now we don’t have that. But we take classes so we’ll be ready when we have it again. 

Young people, you’ve been warned.

Steve Van Auken has now lived in Akron long enough to give directions according to where things used to be.