I’ve been having more and more “old moments” lately, and I’m not particularly thrilled about it. An old moment is when something happens suddenly and unexpectedly that immediately results in you thinking to yourself, “Man, I feel old.” I can clearly recall the very first old moment I ever had. It happened one day at work a few years ago. We had a college student who came to fill in as the receptionist at our office during the summer. She was a very sweet, intelligent girl, which made it difficult for me to despise her for giving me my first old moment, as I would have liked to have done. I was up at the front desk on that fateful day, chit-chatting with our temporary receptionist and another co-worker when my co-worker walked over to a machine sitting on a table in the corner of the front desk area. “What’s that?” the receptionist said in a dazed, confused voice. “It’s a typewriter,” my co-worker said. “Oh! That’s a typewriter? I’ve never seen an actual typewriter before!” the receptionist said. “What?” I asked her in disbelief. “You’ve never seen a typewriter before? Really?” When she swore that she hadn’t, I started having flashbacks to my days in middle school and first couple years in high school when I sat in my childhood home, plunking away on my mom’s old electric typewriter to complete whatever writing assignment I had for homework. It wasn’t until I was a high school sophomore or junior that we got our first computer – a dinosaur of an IBM that ran on DOS and connected to a dot matrix printer that used paper with the perforated, holey edges you had to tear off once your printing job was done. It didn’t seem all that long ago when I was using that typewriter. To hear the receptionist say in awe and wonder that she had never seen one, as if it was some ancient relic that had been dug up in one of the great pyramids in Egypt, was a little disconcerting. It was the first time I ever uttered the phrase, “Man, I feel old.” It wouldn’t be the last.
The last trip I made to the doctor for my yearly check-up left me with an old moment, too. My doctor informed me that it was time to start having my cholesterol checked. After I got over the initial panic attack at the thought of some lab technician jabbing a needle in my arm and sucking the blood out of my body, a realization sunk in. I looked at her in disbelief and said, “Isn’t that a test for old people? I’m not old, I’m only 31.” She chuckled a little and said, “I just like to start my patients out early so I can get a baseline to use later on.” I think she was really just trying to placate me, though. I’ll be 32 during this year’s check-up and I can’t help but wonder what tests she’ll make me undergo this time. Bone density? Mammogram? Colonoscopy? All words that paint a picture in my mind of an 80-year-old, hunched over, arthritic woman knocking on death’s door. I don’t want to have to start thinking about these things yet.
I’d prefer to live in ignorance and believe that my internal organs and musculoskeletal structure are still as fresh, youthful, and lively as they were 10 years ago. Unfortunately, my knees reminded me otherwise not too long ago, making me once again say, “Man, I feel old.” After begrudgingly walking on the treadmill one day, I noticed that my left knee was aching a little bit. The next day, it was aching some more and had also become quite stiff. For no reason at all. I had done my normal, routine walk the day before. Nothing different, no fancy moves or running at a level 12 incline, and yet here I was with a bum knee. “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself. After doing a little research and talking with some other people, I deduced that it was just a result of wear and tear on my 32-year-old knee joint and I needed to give it some rest, which, thankfully, worked. But, still, I was left with the realization that my body is no longer 20 years old and I might have to start dealing with aches and pains that crop up as you get older. I mentioned my achy knee to my dad, who gave this helpful, encouraging advice: “Wait until you’re 60 and everything hurts.” Thanks, Dad. I needed something to look forward to.
Old moments come in every shape and form, but something that always seems to trigger them without fail is hearing about other peoples’ kids. Not long ago, I found out that a little girl I had babysat a few times when I was a teenager was married and just had her first baby. “Wha…what?” I thought. I still pictured her as the toddler I watched when her parents needed a date night. Surely it wasn’t THAT long ago, was it? Another old moment came when one of my former co-workers at the local newspaper I worked for told me that her son just got his driver’s license. “Not possible,” I told myself. “He was just a little kid when you worked there, and that was only six years ago.” But, sure enough, she provided undeniable proof in the form of a photo of his newly minted license. “Man, I feel old,” I mumbled when I saw it.
I experienced my most recent old moment when I was driving home from work a few weeks ago. I was stopped at a red light behind a car with two adults sitting in the front and a little kid bouncing around the back seat. Literally, he was bouncing on the seat, jumping up and down and obviously not restrained in any way. “What’s wrong with those people?” I thought. “Don’t they know there are laws requiring little kids to be strapped into something when riding in a car?” That led me to think about the ridiculous laws that now mandate all kids to be buckled into a car seat and/or booster seat unless they’re over 17 years of age and at least 6’5” tall. (I can see it now: “Mom, can I take the car to football practice?” 16-year-old Timmy asks. “Sure, Timmy, but don’t forget your booster seat!” But I digress…and exaggerate.) This led me to think back to when I was a little girl and not only rode in the front seat of my mom’s car, but perched myself on the armrest in the center console so I could have a better view of everything going on through the windshield. I agree, not smart, but that’s beside the point. I started thinking to myself as I sat at that stoplight, “I didn’t have to sit in a booster seat when I was a kid. Hell, I never even wore a seatbelt when I was little. Kids these days have so many restrictions.” And there it was. That phrase: “Kids these days.” When did I start to think like a crotchety old woman talking about the way things were “back in my day?” I shuddered a little bit and made a silent vow that if the word “whippersnapper” ever escapes my lips, I will personally cut out my own tongue and render myself mute.
I don’t like to think about getting older and eventually officially becoming old, but I do realize that it’s inevitable. What I’m not sure about is where that line lies between being young and being old. Is it when you hit 40, which I hear now is the new 20? Is it when you’re 75 and you just don’t give a flip anymore about what you say and who hears it? Is it when you start getting letters from AARP? Please, someone tell me it’s not because I’ve already gotten mail from AARP inviting me to check out their life insurance plans for retired seniors. I found some consolation when I saw that I’m still 30+ years away from qualifying, but I nevertheless wanted to mark it as “Return to Sender” with a note saying, “I’m 32. You’re wasting your postage.” I also realize that getting older is better than the alternative. But that doesn’t make it any less jarring when an old moment grabs me by surprise every now and then and reminds me that, in fact, the clock is ticking away. My life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I thought it would or the way that I had planned, and there’s still a lot I’d like to do with whatever years I have left on this earth. Hopefully I’ll get everything in before I really am an old fart, complaining about whippersnappers on my way to a battery of medical tests while moaning about all my aches and pains and browsing the brochure I got in the mail from AARP.