May 292016

I mistakenly referred to a calculator as an adding machine at work where I’m administrative staff in a hospital. Everyone burst into raucous laughter, followed by taunts about my age. Senior moment?

Did I conjure up the image of Eustis, the bookkeeper from “It’s a Wonderful Life” from my co‑workers? I doubt any Gen Xers or Millennials can identify Eustis. Besides, it’s a black and white film. Younger people don’t like black and white movies.

Being one of the oldest at my workplace is new for me. I started full‑time work in May 1980. (Yes, indeedy, 36 years ago. People who have worked four decades say “indeedy.”)

I started before the Challenger blew up, before “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” before 9/11. Before most of my co‑workers drew their first breath. Until my present job, I was among the youngest on my team.

At work, I’m frequently lost in the conversation. I don’t get my co‑worker’s jokes, and they certainly don’t get my quips. They talk about the 80s as ancient history. They see me as a child reading McGuffey’s Reader while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell. They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics, and by classics, I mean everything from Steve Martin to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire to Beethoven.

No one understands my jokes, literary references, or anything I say. I used the phrase “a pox on our house” the other day after a series of computer outages. My colleagues thought I was babbling in gibberish.

I referred to Mercutio’s epithet on the families of Romeo and Juliet. A quick Google search revealed Mercutio said “plague” a word which any hospital worker should know. One of the sources I used said “pox” was an archaic term not used today. Yes, indeedy. My co‑workers probably don’t believe it, but I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s time.

(Time for a pop culture reference none of my colleagues will get. They often call what I say “random.” Perhaps it’s authentic frontier gibberish, as originated in a 1970s Mel Brooks flick “I think we’re all grateful to Gabby Johnson, for clearly stating what needed to be said.” It’s a double entendre. You can’t get the pop culture reference from the 1970s without knowing who Gabby Hayes is from the >30s and >40s. From black and white films, the ones the kids won’t watch?)

I don’t see myself as old. I don’t feel old. Isn’t 60 the new 40? Three of my grandparents looked ancient at 60 (one grandfather died in his early 50s.)

A 2015 study surveyed attitudes about aging in Europe. “Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle‑aged, but 200 years ago, a 60‑year‑old would be a very old person.” Dr. Sergei Scherbov, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, led a joint project with New York’s Stony Brook University, looking at how life expectancy has increased. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found people across Europe were currently viewed as “old” when they hit 65.

So what is middle age now? Remember the old saying “life begins at 40”? If you married at 18 or 20 and started a family, you were footloose and fancy‑free at 40. (Of course, most males had a job for life, and looked forward to a pension at 65, but that’s an entirely different story.)

We are healthier, working longer by choice or financial resources, and looking better than our parents or grandparents at the same age.

Or paraphrasing Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas said on vintage “Saturday Night Live,” “We look mar‑veah-luss.”

Let my co‑workers laugh. They might learn something from me. And I’ll take it in stride.

Tomorrow I’m taking in my son’s abacus to show them how we cave women used to count in the days before adding machines.

Believe me, I can give it out as well as I can take it. When I drove the company van the other day, I changed all ten pre‑sets on the radio to NPR. That’ll teach ‘em.

This is an edited version which was picked up at Senior Wire Service in May 2016. The original Raven Lunatic post may be found here. Also cross-posted at BlogHer.

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