Sunday, January 14, 2001

How I lost my car, and, uh, what was I talking about?

        You know you're getting old when you find your keys, but lose your car.

        Or when you go to the mall and have to take one of your kids along, just so you don't get lost.

        Is it me, or do parking lots expand exponentially as we age? Now that I'm 43, the lot at Kenwood Towne Center looks like the New Jersey Turnpike.

        It's worse at the airport. When I get to the short-term parking lot, I always remind myself to write down where I park. I remember to remind myself. I forget to write it down.

        Once, after I was gone a week, I remembered that I forgot to note where the car was. I wandered around for hours. Was it the Lemon Level, or the Cherry? It was some damned fruit.

        I'm getting better, though, at pretending to know where I'm going in parking lots. This is important. Because the only thing worse than losing your car is having somebody know you've lost your car.

        I take long, purposeful strides when I'm lost. Also, casual. Purposeful, casual strides, from a man in control. A man who knows where he's going.

        When I can't find the car, I pretend I forgot something. (This is easy. I'm as accomplished at forgetting things as I am at losing my car.) I go back in the mall or the airport for a few minutes to regroup. Then, I come back out and stand at the entrance, like I'm waiting for somebody to pick me up.

        I'm nonchalant, I'm cool. Often, I whistle. I am devil may care.

        I'm dead meat.

        Will I ask for directions? No way. Don't you think I know where I parked my own car?

        Somebody moved it. Somebody towed my car. Somebody changed the signs. These ramps are wrong. The car was right over there.

        Once, I took my wife's car to the airport. I was missing so long, my face showed up on a milk carton.

        And another thing:

        I can't see anymore. Not long, not short. I used to need one pair of glasses. Now, I need an optometry room off the den.

        We went to another couple's house the other week. After dinner, we played a board game. (This is another sign of aging. We don't go anywhere but down the street. We don't go out at 11 p.m. anymore, either. We're asleep by 11 p.m.)

        As soon as our friends opened the board, six people whipped out their glasses.

        The game had instruction cards. I whipped on my glasses to read the board, then whipped them off to read the cards. On-off, on-off. Plus, to read small stuff now, like game cards, I have to hold it about three feet from my face. It's pathetic.

        At 43, I watch PBS and listen to NPR. I drink coffee after dinner. I'm noticing these little brown spots on the back of my hands.

        My twentysomething niece wonders if I dye my hair. I'd wring her Gen-X neck, if I could remember where she lives. Someplace over by Maryland, I think.

        I find myself dressing nicer at work, even when work is watching a basketball game. I fight the urge to tell my kids all the crazy stuff I did growing up, then I realize . . . I can't remember the crazy stuff I did growing up.

        Just because I trim my ear hair doesn't mean I'm, you know, square.

        Roger Daltrey once sang, “I hope I die before I get old.”

        I'd settle for finding my car.
       Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; fax: 768-8330.


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