May 7, 2010

Getting Geezerly

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

I've noticed a change in my attitude since turning 60. I care less and less about the future of the things that won't affect me. This is fairly significant, since I am sort of notorious among my friends for living as much in the future as the present.

A fair number of my Geezer columns, beginning with the first one from 1999, are about how motorcyclists' anti-social behaviors are likely to affect motorcyclists' access to public roads and parts of cities. It's happened before and it's going to happen more. Even dumps like Daytona are reconsidering the effect motorcycle invasions have on their residents' already miserable quality of life. Lots of lesser "traditional" motorcycle destinations are opting out of the loud pipe, hooligan-behaving, tough-guy-dentist, vandals-took-the-handles secondary effects of going after the motorcycling dollar.

Fortunately for me, I don't go to any of those events or places. Even more fortunate, I live in an insanely conservative country where progress and innovation has been slowed to a crawl and change rarely comes in less than a generation. For example, we're going to be the last industrialized nation to ban lead from manufacturing processes. We are more concerned with the inconvenience manufacturers will experience if they stop pouring that metal into our drinking water than we about poisoning our children. If something that big doesn't get fixed instantly, how long will it take cities to rid themselves of pesky, but rare and insignificant and non-socially-redeeming, motorcyclists? Seriously, even though motorcycles are not in any way part of "smart highway" planning, how many decades will it be before this country moves to that kind of vehicle? In the Land of the Brave we're conservative (timid, afraid of the dark, terrified of change) and we won't do anything rash, innovative, or sensible in a hurry. The oceans may rise up and float our cities away and we'll still be debating who will pay for any technology change.

With that knowledge behind me, I have quit worrying about the future of motorcycling. Whatever happens, won't happen to me. At best, I have maybe 10 years, 15 tops, left to ride. More likely, I'll fall off of a cliff, contract some nasty cancer from my years of industrial chemical exposure, trip over my dog and fall down the stairs, or blow a gasket in any number of clogged vessels or organs. The future of motorcycling is not likely to change in my lifetime. None of my kids have chosen to be motorcyclists and I don't see that as something to worry about. My grandson might become interested, but he probably won't. I've lost the capacity to worry about generations beyond the ones I know personally.

That “freedom” has a cost, though. Recently, a younger, more politically involved friend asked my opinion of helmet laws. For the last 25 years I’ve had a split mind on this issue. On one hand, I’m a fan of Darwin’s selection of the fittest and am all for getting the stupid out of the gene pool. On the other, I’m worried that if too many of the unfit kill themselves on motorcycles their surviving relatives will rise up and campaign against the existence of “murdercycles” on public roads. As I explained that pair of concerns I realized I had passed the point of caring about the second hand. My explanation was blunt, honest, and very politically incorrect. It happened so quickly that it was out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.

Another friend, a non-helmet wearing friend, was part of the discussion and was obviously offended by my lack of concern for his offspring. That’s the other effect of aging on me; I’m less sensitive (and I was always insensitive) to who I offend. Honestly, I’m less afraid of the consequences. At work, this has resulted in a feeling that I’m “bulletproof” to the politics and backstabbing that goes on in an academic institution. The worst thing that can happen is that I will get fired. If I get fired, I’ll find some other way to occupy my time and pay my bills. I have a good gig, but there are other good gigs.

In personal relationships, I worry less about what will be thought about me and more about saying what I mean to say. Getting old sucks, creaks, hurts, aches, and provides occasional stabbing pain. However, it is sort of liberating. If "the worst" that can happen can only happen for a short duration, how bad can it be? It's not like I'm going to be disabled and suffer through the prime of my years. My prime passed about 30 years ago.

The older I get, the higher my tolerance for pain becomes. Getting out of bed is more painful than crashing a dirt bike was 35 years ago. Bending over, running, squatting, reaching over my head, twisting, and flexing any joint provides a constant reminder that my body is increasingly fragile and rapidly decaying. The choices are: 1) avoid pain by not doing anything or 2) get used to pain and keep doing stuff.

For a while, I'm going to chose to keep doing stuff. If the rest of you choose to screw up motorcycling, I'm not going to worry about it. You can't screw it up fast enough to mess up my time on the road.

4 comments:

  1. Through the 1970s I was ready to hear any day that the peep in DC had decided, "OK, you folks have had enough fun. Now we get serious about highway safety, fuel economy, and full Big Brother-ism". But no - the market said motorbikes made money for enough people that they could keep selling H2s that so easily burst their riders against concrete bridge abutments. So I calmed down. It was a microcosm of being called to my army physical and then waiting. I was 1A and assumed the letter would come any day. It still hasn't come. It took a while to calm down.

    What a sucker. IN 1974 I thought something might be done about working up some new sources of energy. But no, here we are 35 years later and photovoltaics and wind turbines are still signs of economic lack of sophistication.

    So many kinds of relaxation. Why am I not calm?

    KC

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  2. Inhale slowly and deeply, exhale even more slowly. Nothing else works. Concentrate on your breath and ignore reality.

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  3. It seems you have a kindred soul in me. Have enjoyed your thoughts on parking meters and other assorted violations of good sense.

    I'm of a like mind on this most recent topic and reminded that getting old isn't for pussies - as someone once told me.

    Cheers,

    MH

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  4. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of pussies in our generation, but I suspect the future isn't going to be to their liking. Screw 'em if they can't take nature's jokes.

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