I finally made it: full-fledged geezerhood.
Until recently, I have been a mere geezer-in-training. You know the symptoms: that crotchety, just-so demeanor. Griping about how they don't do things the way they used to. Stewing over the complications of Medicare and Social Security. Complaining about tennis elbow, football knee and basketball ankle. Getting irked by people who say "more importantly" or who rhyme entrepreneur with manure . And just grousing for the sake of grousing.
But all that was just practice.
I just got my first hearing aid: instant geezerhood. It's not that I live in Hemet, which I'm told is the hearing aid capital of the world. I kept putting it off, trying to cope. Actually, I've been deaf as a post for years.
I became fairly adept at reading lips and facial expressions. If you agree with other folks, they will assume that you are both smart and knowledgeable. Just a vigorous nod often will suffice. You use buddy and pal a lot because you're too deaf to catch names--and if you do catch one, the old memory is shot anyway.
I finally broke down after my 82-year-old aunt, who is also deaf, made me promise to get one. Misery loves company.
As my fellow geezers can attest, once you put that little electronic gadget in your ear, everyone who mumbled before suddenly feels compelled to shout in your direction and speak in simple sentences using words of one syllable. And for some geezers (I'm one), hearing aids mostly seem to amplify ambient noise. Forget trying to converse near a freeway. And in a restaurant, the clatter of dishes and silverware can be mind-numbing.
It was early in the day when the hearing-aid merchant handed me the tiny device, explained how it worked and gave me pointers on how to care for it.
It came in a little velvet-covered presentation case, the kind they use for diamond earrings, which seemed appropriate. (How can anything so small and plastic be so expensive?) The case also contained a little brush and a tiny tool for (ugh!) wax removal. The hearing aid has a hole through its center and Q-Tips don't fit. The hearing-aid entrepreneur (rhymes with grrr! ) said a pipe cleaner is good to ream out the hole. I promised to pick some up.
This led to one of those defining moments when you realize you've been around too long.
I popped in at the Lucky market near my home and asked a young clerk where they kept the pipe cleaners. He directed me to the aisle where they keep Drano and Liquid-Plumr.
"Not that kind of pipe cleaner," I said. "The little fuzzy ones with the wire in the center. Smokers use them to clean a good calabash, a briar or perhaps even a corncob like Doug MacArthur's. You know, kindergarten kids bend and twist them into stick figures."
Apparently pipe-cleaner art was not practiced in this clerk's preschool. "They have to clean those things?" he asked, making an effort to conceal his disgust. Obviously a nonsmoker. But he was helpful and polite. (Probably company policy. They must have a "Be Kind to Geezers" sign someplace.)
We finally tracked down the elusive implements on the very bottom shelf of the padlocked cupboard where the store keeps cigarettes and other tobacco products. I bought two packages. Although I don't know how often I'm going to have to ream this thing out, I want a pretty good supply in case pipe cleaners go the way of vinyl records.
But that seems unlikely. The pipe-cleaner maker appears bent on heading off such a fate. On the product's package, it recommends other cleaning uses: dirty jets on gas grills; fine detail on cars, boats and motorcycles; detail on silver, brass or bronze. (When we over-the-hill rogues invite a lady up to see our etchings, we want them to be clean.)
The label also suggests using them as "super-strong twist ties" or as touch-up tools for painting hard-to-reach places.
Sadly, stick-figure art isn't mentioned. Neither are hearing aids.
Why is it the young and the old are so often neglected? The marketing department would have known better if all of us geezers hadn't been put out to pasture.