When I was young, I often watched older folks and wondered why they drove so slowly, forgot to turn on their turn signal or parked their vehicle catawampus between the lines of a parking space.
I'd get a little frustrated with them when they blocked the aisle in the grocery store or fumbled with a fistful of coupons at the checkout. "Egad!" I thought, "Let's get moving!"
Thankfully, my parents had taught me to respect my elders and I always held my tongue and refrained from blowing my horn. My folks reminded me that someday I too would be old and would not want to be treated poorly by some whippersnapper.
As a child, I thought that people in their 20s and 30s were adults. People in their 40s were middle-aged and those 50 and above were borderline ancient.
At 12 I wanted to be 16 so that I could get my driver's license. At 16, I wanted to be 18 so I could go off to college. At 18, I wanted to be 21 so I could join my pals in a bar and drink beer. At 21 I wanted to be 23 and done with my studies, earning a living and living in my own apartment.
I think that was the end of my wanting to be older.
After age 25 I wanted the clock to stop. I saw 30 looming on the horizon and there was a big black cloud hanging over the "three-zero." Terrible things begin to happen at 30, like losing your hair.
I survived that birthday and found myself approaching the big 4-0. Forty is probably the most traumatic of all birthdays. Indeed, on my 40th birthday, there were 40 pink plastic flamingos stuck in my front yard. At work, I was greeted by 40 black helium-filled balloons stuffed into my office.
The next 10 years flew by. After 50, birthdays cease to be a laughing matter. I sensed a change coming over me. I started thinking about getting older but in a more positive way. If all went well, in 10 or 12 years I would be retired.
Those 10 years passed in what seemed like a blink of the eye. I joined the ranks of those seniors that I used to think drove too slow, clogged up the checkout lines and generally got in the way.
Now, as I drive to Traverse City, my speedometer registers 55 mph. Young bucks in pickup trucks tailgate me until they can put the pedal-to-the-metal and fly by me on an open stretch of two-lane. As they fly by, some of them give me that "get out of my way old man" look and speed off. I usually catch up with them at the next red light.
Hopefully most of them have a job and are heading to work. Luckily for me, I'm beyond that. I'm heading to The Grand Traverse Pie Co. for a senior cup of coffee and a slice of warm cherry pie.
Looking around in the restaurant, I see other characters just like me. Nobody seems in a rush and they certainly are not in a hurry to leave. We've already put in our time working and are finally on our own clock. If we choose to linger an hour or so, it's just because we can.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.