Burt Prelutsky / Oct. 1, 2011

Aging Beats the Alternative

When people get to talking about the major changes they've witnessed in their lifetime, I find that, more often than not, they end up listing technological advances. Rockets to the moon, computers, television, nuclear power, heart transplants, supersonic jets, the Pill and Viagra, tend to make everybody's short list.

I'm sure I'm overlooking some obvious choices, but that's because inventions and scientific discoveries don't astound me to the extent they do other folks. I'm not certain why that is, but I suspect that I long ago depleted my lifetime supply of awe.

When people get to talking about the major changes they’ve witnessed in their lifetime, I find that, more often than not, they end up listing technological advances. Rockets to the moon, computers, television, nuclear power, heart transplants, supersonic jets, the Pill and Viagra, tend to make everybody’s short list.

I’m sure I’m overlooking some obvious choices, but that’s because inventions and scientific discoveries don’t astound me to the extent they do other folks. I’m not certain why that is, but I suspect that I long ago depleted my lifetime supply of awe.

The stuff that used to knock me for a loop were everyday things like cars, phones and electricity – things that actually changed the physical landscape on a massive scale. What truly astonished me about them was the amount of gall it took for someone to assume the world would go all topsy-turvy just to accommodate his brainstorm.

Take the automobile, for instance. Imagine, you wake up in the middle of the night with that particular notion buzzing around in your bonnet. You begin mulling it over from every angle. Right off the bat, you realize that millions of roads will have to be paved and lines painted. Next comes the realization that traffic lights and illumination will have to be provided. By the time you got around to accepting the fact that gas stations and garages would have to pop up like wild flowers to keep all those jalopies running, a lesser man would have tossed in the towel.

Speaking as a lesser man, if I’d been the fellow who came up with the internal combustion brainstorm, I’d have turned over and gone back to sleep. And at breakfast the next morning, I’d have been urging my son to become a blacksmith, a career with a real future.

To my way of thinking, the biggest change that occurred in my lifetime took place during the 1960’s. I refer to the fact that, for the first time in recorded history, adolescents stopped wanting to emulate their parents, and, instead, grown-ups wanted to be teenagers.

Overnight, enormous numbers of adults decided to use sex and drugs as a form of rebellion. A half century later, I’m still not sure what they were rebelling against, or exactly how tie-dyed shirts and platform shoes figured in the overall plan, but I thought they were goofy then and, in most cases, those folks and their offspring remain goofy to this day. So, in case you were wondering where all the liberal airheads come from, now you know.

I have noticed that I’m not as worried about getting old as most other people. I’m happy to say I still turn to the sports section before the obituaries, although I do find myself clucking my tongue over the death of some eighty year old stranger, and muttering, “Someone that young, I wonder if it was murder or suicide.”

Having started losing my hair when I was quite young and never having been what one would call a hunk, I find that I have only one really major gripe with this whole aging process. What’s the deal with the earlobes? I mean, really, one day they look cute and perky, exactly the way they always have; the next morning, you wake up looking like something out of Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not,” with these Ubangi lobes that look as if bones should be stuck through them.

I realize it’s further proof that God has a sense of humor, but I can’t help wishing He had a better one.

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