Source: Columbia Pictures, Screenshot pre-1976, Public Domain

I worry about the how-to article's pontification and aridity. So in some recent posts, I've genre-bended: I've attempted to embed a psychological issue within a short-short story, for example, Unhinged and Should You Give Up on Finding Mr/Ms Right?

Today's offering looks at a man's confrontation with his aging and being out of step with the times.

It was 1:00 and Joe was about to return to the office building in downtown San Francisco where he has worked for 22 years. But today, for the first time, at age 72, he decided not to go back to work but to take the afternoon off, just because.

After phoning his boss to say he needed a few hours to himself, Joe simply started walking, taking in the sights and sounds. Here were his thoughts as he walked:

"Tattoos: Ugly defacing of the human body and it takes a year of painful treatments to undo, which may not work. So choosing to have a tattoo is usually a lifetime decision, including long after the tattoo fad has faded but the tattoo hasn't.

"Hip-hop, electronic music, modern classical music. Ugly, annoying. How can anyone like that better than You'll Never Walk Alone, Ebb Tide, or The Shadow of Your Smile?"

Joe looked at the headlines at the newspaper stand. "So much emphasis on helping the have-nots. We used to call them bums, hoodlums, lazy, juvenile delinquents. Then we started to externalize their responsibility by calling them the underclass. Now we use terms that completely externalize responsibility: disadvantaged, underprivileged, vulnerable, under-served. How about honoring the excellent? That's what inspires. And investing in the best and brightest is more likely to make a difference—Google, iPhone, cardiac stents—than spending yet more on the intractable underclass. In the past half-century alone, we've spent $22 trillion and the achievement gap is as wide as ever.

"So many young adults are on the streets during a weekday. I feel sorry for them. Unless you're a tech-whiz, there are fewer and fewer good jobs. And automation and offshoring can only increase. And with home prices propped up by the techno-rich and the Chinese buying up prime U.S. real estate, few young people will ever afford a home. Yet the government and media seem to pay more attention to which bathroom a transgendered person can use.

"Then there are young people I have little sympathy for. Here they are, on a Wednesday at 1:30, "protesting:" chatting and giggling with each other as they desultorily hold up a sign bearing some bumper-sticker rhetoric. I  believe they're committed to little more than not working. Their "protesting" is mainly a socially acceptable way of doing nothing other than playing with their video games, craftsy hobbies, sports, yoga mats, meditation shrines, and essential oils rather than doing what their parents and grandparents did: Do what it takes to earn a living even if it isn't "doing what you love." The vast majority of jobs are just that: jobs. Unless you're a tech-whiz or a very talented artist or leader, no one will pay you to "follow your passion." I'm tempted to yell at them, "Earn your living—Don't be a parasite on your parents or on the taxpayer: me!

"Look at the gridlock. They want to force us out of our cars into mass-transit that sucks more hours from our already overpacked days. So they build no new freeways, convert existing ones into toll roads, turn car lanes into bicycle lanes that no one uses, and set up carpool lanes that sit underutilized because who the hell can, every day, get three people who live near you and work near you to ride with you. And so all the traffic gets compressed into fewer lanes, there's more gridlock, more pollution! Crazy.

"So many billboards, songs, and movies glorify casual sex. I'm no prude but is a hook-up culture really good for people? Doesn't it encourage the shallowest of relationships? Doesn't it accelerate the already lamentable decline in a couple's sexuality over time? And the marriage rate is down. Can that be good for children? It's hard enough to raise a child with two parents, but with one? With revolving-door, Tinder lovers?

"And look at all those people wearing designer labels? Especially those bicyclist jerseys! How silly that people are willing to be walking billboards for corporations, which many of those people claim to hate!

"And look at all those obese people eating fast-food when there's a market selling fruit and vegetables right there! Not only are my tax dollars expected to pay for their medical expenses when they get sick, because there's a shortage of doctors, operating rooms, etc, it could cost me my life."

Joe returned home, made himself a cup of tea, sat in his easy chair, listened to Frank Sinatra singing Autumn Leaves and thought, "For time immemorial, old people denigrate the next generation even though, despite retracements, things inexorably get better. I'm old. It's time to step aside."

The takeaway

If you are aging, do you want to make greater efforts to change with the times? To "rage, rage against the dying light?" Or to step aside and enjoy the timeless, simple pleasures: relationships, reading, charity, creative expression, mentoring, gardening, watching good movies and TV, nature, the arts, and spirituality?

HERE is the link to a YouTube video of me performing this story.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books, including his just-published Modern Fables: short-short stories with life lessons, are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net

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