ELASTIC LIKE OUR TIRED OLD BRAINS

At my ripe oldish age, we should not be required to be elastic. We are supposed to — and every television show agrees with me on this — sit in rocking chairs and rant about the good old days, even if they weren’t all that good. Complain about the music. Fail to grasp anything more complicated than the phonograph we used in the 1970s. Reject anything technological or unfamiliar. That’s what old people do, right?

This didn’t happen for us. I am every bit as up-to-date with technology as anyone in my family … and more than most. I still don’t like cell phones. That isn’t a rejection of the technology. I just don’t like the tiny keys which don’t fit my fat fingers or the crappy sound quality that makes every voice sound like it’s coming from an old tin can attached by string to another can somewhere. I bet phone designers could improve the sound if they cared. They don’t care, so probably, they won’t.

We don’t own a rocking chair. Even if we did, I wouldn’t be in it. I like the recliner. My back likes it too. Where my back goes, I follow. What we lack in rocking chairs, we make up for in WiFi.

I feel we should have been allowed to believe the political and social progress we made between the 1960s and now, was good. Fixed. I should have been allowed to feel happy about what we did. Be proud of our accomplishments. Instead, I find myself stretching my brain to fit around a world that seems to be heading backwards to a time before I was old enough to think about this stuff. It is like some cruel joke time and history have played on us.

This is a level of elasticity that seems both unfair and frankly unreal. I can’t even make sense of it most of the time … and I can usually make sense of anything. Rationalizations are us.

I believe that ultimately, everything will right itself. With a little bit of luck, it may do that sooner rather than later. I have no proof to support this opinion, only a gut feeling and a bare remnant of optimism.

Garry and I have learned to accept — to stretch our brains — and deal with things we never thought we’d ever have to cope with again. Not in this life. It turns out, just when you think it’s time to kick back and watch old movies, life pops up and giggles. Or is that an insane cackle?

COME TO THINK OF IT

Getting old isn’t all that bad, come to think of it.

There was a question on my local Facebook page asking for suggestions about local pediatricians. I suddenly realized … I don’t know any pediatricians. Considering my son is 48 and my granddaughter is 21, that ought to be no big surprise … but it was. I don’t remember exactly when I became free of worrying about “kid stuff.” As long as Kaity was a child, it was still part of my world, if only indirectly. But now … it’s finished.

I’m no longer worried about the routes for school buses. I’m not looking for a great playground — or wondering how many pairs of shoes the child will need this year. I may be wondering whether or not I can afford to get her a better camera, but that’s a grown up concern. No more am I wrapped in the world of children.

Do I miss it?

Are you kidding?

I won’t be packing lunch or overseeing homework assignments. I will not have to listen to the kid lying about how he did his homework during study hall and trying to decide whether to call him on it, or say “fuck it” and move on.

I won’t need to update my résumé. I won’t be commuting to a faraway office or planning a vacation based on a two-week vacation schedule. I might not get any vacation, but on the positive side of that equation, I don’t really need a vacation. A short break to visit friends will do nicely.

I will probably only set my alarm half a dozen times during the coming year.

There are worse things than being old. Retirement. Way to go!

RETIREMENT BEATS CHILDHOOD

Retirement is better than childhood. You don’t work as a child, but they make you go to school — which can be as bad and sometimes, worse. Moreover, childhood is prepping for the work of your future. Other people set your schedule and tell you what to eat, drink, and wear. Now, retirement? No school, unless you feel like doing it. No one sets your schedule or tells you what to wear.

In your working years, you grow increasingly tired until one day, you look in a mirror. “Self,” you say. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“I could retire,” you point out to you. “I could pack it in, take the money” and as you think this, a little bell ding-a-lings deep in your mental recesses … a bell labeled “What money?” Have you sat with HR to find out what kind of money there is in your retirement fund? Do you have a retirement fund? 401 K?

“And anyway,” you continue, “There is Social Security, right? I’ve worked hard my entire life. Surely there’s enough in there to sustain life?”

So begins the intricate dance by which you detach yourself from the working world and figure out from whence all paychecks will come in the future. Ultimately, you slide into  a place where long-deferred pleasures await you. Hobbies are now your primary activity. You have free time that is truly free. Pity about the lack of a paycheck, but most of us feel that the insane freedom of retirement is a pretty good trade-off.

You get up when you like. Go to bed when you feel like it. Sleep late as often as possible. Read all night till the sun come up. Watch old movies until sleep pulls you into darkness. You can blog, read, and write your memoirs. Travel if money and your physical conditions allows. Most of us, after some initial confusion, settle down and discover that retirement is very good. With its restrictions, issues, and whatever … it’s very good. The best.

Barring ill-health — and don’t we wish we could bar ill-health — is far better than working no matter what your income because you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. Better than the years of raising children because you are no long a slave to the whims of your spoiled darlings who hopefully, have flown the coop and now nest elsewhere. With luck, they won’t fly back, bringing a birdie spouse and all the fledglings.

Would I work anyway if I had the option? Return to an office? Deadlines? Doing what I’m told or face the consequences? Schedules, on the job and off? Endless commutes? Taking ten minutes to get a sandwich, then wolfing it down while seated at the computer to the accompaniment of acid reflux?

No. I think not.

I’LL TAKE RETIREMENT

Share Your World – June 6, 2017


What’s your strongest sense?

If imagination and curiosity don’t count as senses, then I’ll have to go with sight. Of my senses, it gets the most use by far. My hearing is decent too. Not as good as it was when I was younger, but for my age, better than most. Compared to my husband, it’s fantastic. These days, I do miss the soft sounds like the beeping of a machine, the buzz of the washer or dryer in the basement. Small sounds were louder quite recently Only during the last year have they started to become hard to hear.

Oh well. At least I see pretty well. Actually, according to the eye doctor, excellent. That’s something, right?

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey)

That would depend. I am a relentless, hyper-active, powerful sneezer. Once I get started, I keep going until Garry has to run screaming from the room and the dogs are outside, looking for some peace and quiet. Otherwise, maybe Doc. I always seem to have a fix for something or other.

If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what age would that be?

As long as I get to keep my current brain, I’d go with 30. Strong, agile, but past the bubble-headed twenties. But having a 30-year-old brain? No, I don’t think so. I’d rather be physically old than mentally young. I don’t know why people think old people aren’t smart. It’s the smartest part of life.

List of jobs you think you might enjoy: even if you aren’t thinking about a career change, it can be fun to think of other jobs you might enjoy.  [Remember:  This is SYW where even your dreams can become reality.]

I will take retirement, thank you, regardless of whatever job preceded it. I could be a retired actress. Then everyone would want to listen to my stories. Whatever I was, just give me retirement. And a computer, so I can write. Quality cameras, books, movies, dogs, a couple of good friends. And Garry.

Otherwise, I’m very down with not working.

ROAD AND BANK

I haven’t done much driving in the past two years. Since I had my heart surgery, I have not wanted to drive.

I have done it, briefly as needed, but I don’t like it. Despite that, I need to drive sometimes and today was a good choice. Nice day, not a busy time. It turns out, I remember how to drive, but have forgotten how to get anywhere. I’ve always had a terrible sense of direction but two years of letting Garry drive has made it much worse.

Nonetheless. I found the post office, with help from Garry. I couldn’t remember which road went where (really, THAT bad) and then the doctor. Garry drove home. But my day was not over.

I had to go to the bank.

I cannot remember the last time I was inside a brick-and-mortar bank. Normally, I do everything online. Money comes in as direct deposits and I pay my bills on the computer. Today, though, I have a piece of paper. Which won’t become money unless (gasp), I deposit it. Eventually, I find myself in the bank with the check in hand. Trying to deposit it. Apparently no one uses deposit slips anymore. You hand them the check, slide your bank card through this month’s newest machine, tell them where you want it to go … and sign. Voila. Done.

I couldn’t remember anything. The machines are new, the slider is on the opposite side. I couldn’t find the pen. It was humiliating.

I’m sure the next time I go to a bank, it will be new all over again. Online, it’s all direct deposit. I can move money around, pay bills, calculate how much money is available for whatever. And I’m great with software, but as a live human, I’m hopeless.

Pathetic, I know. But who knows when or if I’ll ever have another check? Seriously. Who gets paper checks anymore?

WHEN YOU COULD LOOK IT UP IN A BOOK

Last night, someone I actually know and who should know better, complained the camera company from whom he bought his camera should fire the tech writer. Because there was no manual.

I felt obliged to point out the reason there is no manual is they never hired a tech writer in the first place. If they had technical writers, there would be a manual. You wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars on a camera and get a three-page leaflet. You’d get a book with an index and a table of contents. Screen shots. Explanations not only of where to find a function, but what the function means, so when you get there, you know what to choose.

Once upon a time, that was my world. I thought it was important, at least to the people who bought products about which I wrote.

Years went by during which the work I did was my life. I got up, got dressed, scraped the ice off the car, went to work (stopping for coffee along the way) and went through my day. Between having done the same kind of work for a long time and perpetually racing against a deadline, life was busy. I knew, no matter what the ad said when I took a job, my work wasn’t permanent. I would work until the book was finished, then I’d move on. It was the way it was.

The industry in which I worked ultimately decided the work I did was no longer necessary. Who needs a manual to tell them how to use equipment that costs a gazillion dollars and controls the operation of a steel mill? Or a missile tracking system? Or a satellite grabber for use out in space? They can always call the help desk — especially in space where you can easily find a signal for your phone.

I was the one who organized the chaotic information into a book with a table of contents, index, chapters, and diagrams so you would not always have to call someone. Considering the state of tech support these days, you can see where this failure to supply reasonable documentation has landed us. That’s why the phones are always busy and why the quality of support is so awful.

The help desk people don’t have a book, either.

Regardless, I was obsolete. You need developers and a boss because someone has to say why you are all gathered here this morning. Also, the boss makes sure there’s coffee. But a writer? They only hired me when they were at the end of a production cycle, realized the contract required they deliver documentation with the product. Sometimes, I got as little as three weeks to learn a product and produce a book that looked professional. At that point, no one cared what was in the book or whether the information would be of any use to anyone. It just had to be big, thick, nicely designed, and weigh enough to use as a doorstop.

My days were numbered. Eventually, I was gone.

To substitute for professional writers, they produce “automatic documentation.” Which is raw data generated by a program using “comments” left by developers, many of whom speak English as a second or third language and in any case, do not understand how regular people work and the kind of information they need to navigate a complex product. It turns out, people were still willing to spend oodles of money for an undocumented product. So I guess they were right. No one cares until they get an expensive product that includes nothing. The good news? You can find entire books — the kind I used to write — on Amazon. Buy them and find out how the product works. It’s just like the books people like me wrote. Cool, huh?

For all of you who believe that crappy documentation is because tech writers are lazy? No, we aren’t lazy. What we are is fired.

HOW TO HAVE ENOUGH MONEY ON WHICH TO RETIRE

I found this question on Quora:


What percentage of my salary do I need to save in order to maintain my current quality of life once I retire?

So I said:


Definitely, you should live in your mom’s basement and save all of the money you earn. Using your salary to live on? BIG mistake.

Just saying.