Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Age-old Story

It’s an age thing, I guess.
The other day, I was in the checkout line at a local “big box” retailer and I swiped my debit card in the reader. I’ve since replaced it, but the card I was using was pretty worn out from a lot of use and the stress of being jammed into the file cabinet I call a wallet.
The card didn’t want to work, and I swiped it repeatedly, muttering to myself as I envisioned having to walk away from my cartload of purchases.
“Are you sure you’re doing it right, hon?” asked the young lady manning the register.
I’m almost sure she didn’t call me that because she was overwhelmed by a sudden crush on me.
Instead, I fear the “hon” part was, apparently, a gentle form of address directed towards someone no longer possessing the mental capacity to operate everyday electronic gadgets..
I thought about informing her her that I had been directly involved in the introduction of one of the very first ATM systems in the central midwest back in the day and certainly knew how to use a simple debit card. But I realized that advertising launch probably occurred before she was born. To tell her that I had written volumes of advertising copy and produced TV and radio commercials for what, at that time, was a revolutionary concept, would be like telling her I had been around for the invention of air.
Luckily, the card finally worked and I escaped without further embarrassment.
I guess it’s just another example of how age kind of sneaks up on you.
Now, bear in mind that I am not yet a full-fledged dinosaur walking the earth. I admit, though, that I have steadily readjusted my definition of middle age. Remember, I’m part of the “never trust anyone over 30” set, so that seemed like a likely milestone...until I reached it. 40 followed suit, as did 50. Now, as I look at the short end of the next decade, I’ve decided 100 is about right for middle age.
Which means I’ll live to be 200.
At which point, you can call me “hon.”
Speaking of birthdays, I was noodling around on a new (to me) website called Wolfram/Alpha the other day. It is, according the blurb on its front page, “the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone.”
Apparently, though, plain, understandable English is not part of the ambitious, long-term project.
It’s almost impossible to make this sound simple, but basically, Wolfram/Alpha is what happens when you foolishly give math guys access to the rest of the world. You enter a search term, and the site quickly spits back a pile of mathematic data surrounding that term. For instance, punching in your hometown elicits population, elevation, geographic coordinates, weather data and distance from nearby cities, which, I admit, is all interesting, and even potentially useful, information. But I was even more fascinated when I submitted the month, day and year of my birthday. Wolfram/Alpha quickly told me how many years, weeks and days I’ve been alive, though it failed to offer minutes or seconds, or even the proposed date and time of my demise, which would have been interesting, indeed. It also clued me in on sunrise and sunset times for that day, though it didn’t provide me with any information on what the weather was like or what was on TV. An interesting addition was a short list of others born on September 27th, complete with our age differences. It’s not hard to find such “born on this day” lists, but this one noted a pretty mixed and fancy roster, so I liked it.
Included were Rush Hudson Limbaugh (not the right-wing radio guy, but his dad) who was born 59 years earlier than me; Samuel Adams of revolutionary war and beer fame (228 years older); singer Meat Loaf, who’s a mere three years my senior; and Gene Autry, who was born 43 years before me. I confess, none of these birthday-sharing celebs especially tripped my trigger, except for one: Autry, who made his name as a popular singing cowboy on TV, radio and the movies, in addition to being the owner of the MLB Los Angeles Angels for many years.
While his signature song was "Back in the Saddle Again," he was best known for some great pop Christmas music, like "Here Comes Santa Claus" (which he wrote), "Frosty the Snowman," and his biggest hit, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which are all songs I’ve played and sung at various holiday events in my so-called career as a musician.
So, here’s the thing:
While I could give a hoot about the exact moment I took my first breath or conservative politics or fancy beer or, even, the amazing Mr. Loaf, who wouldn’t want to share a birthday with a singing cowboy?

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