It’s lonely at the top of the age bracket. I work for an organization with 144 employees. 140 of them, including the chief of police, are younger than I am.
It’s as if the only language I speak is Swahili. I’ve worked here 11 years, so I am trying to keep my mouth shut to avoid embarrassment. In a world where every other sentence in a conversation starts with “Dude,” ends up with “bro,” and the primary adjective used is “awesome,” I sometimes feel washed out to sea on a fragment of contaminated Japanese tsunami waste.
Not long ago, Other Bill and I went to a Judy Collins concert. As a side note, I hadn’t been to a concert in a long time, and I was expecting the audience to be the same age as the audiences who went to her concerts in the 60’s. You know: young like me. Turns out, they were the same people, but not the same age. It was like seeing a cousin you haven’t been around in 35 years. You think she’s still parading around in diapers, when in fact, she has a Ph.D. and is CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation. The Judy Collins crowd was old. We’re talking oxygen tank schlepping and walker-pushing old. Not to mention the prescription-laden old like the people in our house.
So the next day I went into work and realized that if I told anyone I had gone to see Judy Collins, the name recognition factor would be at the same level as if I’d said I’d gone to see a Mary Pickford movie. “She some friend of yours, bro?” They might ask. So I didn’t tell anyone.
Years ago, thinking my employer wouldn’t buy me anything more than a crappy $79 desk chair, I went out and bought my own bungee cord chair and brought it in to work. It has become a point of mock contention and ridicule. “Dude, you better not sit in Bill Wiley’s chair, bro,” they say in teasing. “It’s his very own special chair, bro.”
So the other day I walked into my office. A young rookie was sitting in my very own special chair, and my captain said to him, ”Uh-oh, dude, you better get out of Bill Wiley’s chair. You'll soon learn how he is about his chair, bro.”
“Yeah,” I said, “It’s like Archie Bunker’s chair.”
Chirp, chirp, chirp went the crickets.
It should come as no surprise that they were born after All in the Family went off the air.
I try to keep up. I went to two Google-suggested sites after I'd entered "famous TV chairs." Archie's chair wasn't on either list. The best I could get was Norm’s stool in Cheers and Martin Crane’s chair in Frasier. Neither of those would have resulted in a ding, ding, ding of the bell with my coworkers. Listen, Archie Bunker’s chair is in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. As far as I’m concerned, it should be a question on the SAT’s.
“During World War Two,” I said. (I didn’t say it the way Archie Bunker said it: Dubya, dubya two.)
“Really!” he said. “My grandfather was in Vietnam.”
Immediately after hearing that, I went to the bathroom to re-Polygrip my dentures and then called my doctor to schedule a bloodletting by leeches.
People say I am quiet, an introvert, reserved, or I keep to myself. There’s a reason for that. Deep down I know that there is a dark shadowed skeleton in a full-length hoodie, carrying a sharp sickle that will one day come down on me. And I don’t need any reminders of that.
But at least I know what a hoodie is.
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