Do not go gently into your twilight years….
Very hard to see pic but a special one to me of my father, grandfather and Colonel Sanders at the ribbon cutting ceremony launching the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at UK back in 1979 –and that is going stronger than ever.
I used to listen to my grandfather in his 80s as he would walk 18 to 36 holes of golf in a day (while I drove in a golf cart at age 17) declare that aging wasn’t a natural process but a form of disease that we could and should combat. Colonel Harlan Sanders who was virtually unknown outside his hometown of Corbin in his 50s but by the time he was 70 was one of the three most recognizable faces in the world, believed in staving off the effects of aging too.
The two men convinced my father to start a foundation to do something about their beliefs that would be backed by science and help thousands –maybe even millions—enjoy richer lives in their later years.
I was proud to receive this picture tonight on my father’s behalf and was reminded how fully my grandfather lived his life all the way to the end. Running unsuccessfully for Congress at 81. Handling front page criminal trials at the age of 84 and never saying never to anything.
Sue Wylie, an esteemed public affairs talk show host, interviewed my grandfather when he was in his early 80s and reflecting upon all of his losses when we ran for public office (he lost about 3 times more races than he won), she asked him,
“Well, Mr Brown…..Do you sometimes feel like a failure?”
My grandfather’s voice cracked in a generous and kindly manner as he began to smile and said while still keeping a steady gaze on his host,
“No honey. Look….I adhere to the belief that they only time you fail in this life is when you fail to try.” And after pausing and grinning even bigger adding, “And on that count I think I took about every chance I ever had.”
That’s a pretty good way to live your life. And hasn’t been lost on me or many others inside and outside of the family who knew him.
He would have been proud of his and his friend’s legacy tonight. And, of course, disappointed he wasn’t selected as the keynote speaker. ; )
Warning: If you try to go to Walmart to pick up a half gallon of milk, you will soon realize your errand is not about the 2% milk.
Instead your journey is about the exploration of a wild, weird and wonderfully kitschy world where you will see things that will bend your conventional mind and make you whisper to yourself, “Gee, I could use that.” Followed by “and that too.” Or maybe, “Who thinks up these products?” Followed finally by “These prices can’t be beat.”
And you will soon realize that even though you walked into a Walmart that you have really entered the Hotel California.
That’s right. “You can check out any time you want (through self-service check out), but you can never leave.”
It’s hard to know the course we are on or where we are in the race or even where it will take us.
Sometimes it isn’t clear if we are closing in on the finish line or the edge of a cliff.
And sometimes when it seems to be the edge of a cliff it is really only a small jump down and part of a longer obstacle course.
And sometimes when it seems to be the finish line and we push out our chest to secure victory we learn we have already been lapped by our competitor. Or forgot to hand off the baton several laps ago.
Which means, I guess, not to waste too much time anticipating or prejudging and do your best to adjust and make the most of whatever you find around the next turn.
And if you have been carrying a baton for several hours, you probably have some explaining to do.
A defining moment……that any of us can have. Frequently.
People may not always remember a kind act…. but almost never forget being treated rudely.
And although a kind act my lead others to think well of us for a brief time ….if we treat someone poorly they tend to define our nature as rude and our intentions as suspect.
A person who is viewed by another as rude and suspect can almost never be viewed by that same person as genuinely kind or completely trustworthy.
So when you are about to treat someone rudely, make sure you chose thoughtfully, carefully and wisely. Because you are not simply about to exhibit a flourish of rude behavior; but rather are about to define yourself with someone for a very long time
If you run a business off your laptop, be sure not to leave the laptop in the seat pocket in front of you after idling on the Tarmac for 45 minutes before take-off.
It is posaible you will get in a conversation with a man from Jordan in the window seat next to you and forget to use the laptop when airborne and above 10,000 feet. (As a sidenote airplanes these days go much higher than 10,000 feet. In fact, about 35,000 –Vanessa Armstrong and Steven Riggs. Not everybody knows this but probably should. Especially of they are going to post about air travel on Facebook.)
Back to the main topic. If you do get engrossed in a conversation with a member of the Jordanian military under these circumstances DO NOT leave your laptop in the seat pocket in front of you. Also, if asked by the Jordanian member of the military seated next to you “What do you know about Jordan?” Don’t say “You mean Michael Jordan? The greatest basketball player of all time?” Because that is not what they are talking about. They are talking about a different Jordan that you probably don’t know much about. (Hint: Try Googling Jordan, the country, when they are not looking so don’t sound like a complete embecile).
And if you do leave your laptop in the seat pocket and it is a US Air flight, call customer service and ask for Roberta. She is great and can help you locate your laptop the next morning. Just don’t try to blame USAir for your memory lapse. That only ticks off Roberta and she won’t try as hard to find it for you.
Hope this helps.
Also, turns out Jordan is a really interesting place to talk about. But probably not worth losing your laptop over.
What I did over the last two hours.
On plane to NYC
Left Louisville, Kentucky this late this afternoon to travel to New York City, New York.
Not walking, of course.
Not taking horse drawn carriage.
Not traveling by boat.
Not traveling by automobile either.
But flying –soaring really–12,000 feet above the ground at over 500 miles per hour.
Over 500 mph!!
Like a giant steel bird flying confidently and safely through outer space high above the clouds and now swooping down to land in a new brightly lit up city with millions and millions of strangers just like you and me but different too.
Wheels touched down and we have arrived in New York City, New York from Louisville, Kentucky in a 2 long hours.
We are not your tired and huddled masses seeking refuge but more like well rested and well fed aliens visiting from a distant planet because we can.
For the weekend.
I suspect that Lady Liberty in her permanently proud and protective pose is trying to defy gravity by grinning to herself and thinking “This is happening!”
Horn honking rules of etiquette:
When waiting at a traffic light that has turned green but the car in front of you hasn’t noticed yet.
1) One short honk means a head’s up to driver that the light has changed
2) Two short honks means the light has changed and the driver honking is in a hurry
3) Three short honks means the light has changed, the honking driver is in a hurry and thinks the driver …in the car in front of him is an idiot.
4) One long honk means the honking driver is a total a****le and is in a hurry because he started late and is an idiot. (
Note: if the honked at driver responds with a symbolic retaliatory hand gesture, then he becomes a bigger a***ole and idiot than the honking driver.)
I’m not talking about deliberate and demented cruelty. Like torturing little animals. I’m talking about accidental and unintended actions that lead to an unplanned cruel outcome.
Today I decided to drive into a car dealership to look at some cars….mostly to kill time. I pulled in and as I pulled toward the door I saw three sales reps waiting to greet me. So I turned left and was going to park but saw two more sales reps standing near the parking space. So I turned left again and pulled into what looked like a “sales rep free zone” but as I looked out my side window there were two other sales reps standing casually nearby waiting for me to get out and look at a car.
I was psyching myself up to get out of the car and thinking of nice ways of saying, “I’m just looking” but before I could my wife texted me. And I texted back.
There was palpable tension anyone watching could sense and each of the seven sales reps were curiously waiting to see which direction I’d walk when I got out of my car.
So, to buy time, I texted my wife something totally irrelevant and we texted back and forth about it for about two minutes. By this time several of the sales reps were getting concerned and wondering what I was up to. A few looked like they were ready to write me off as crazy. One looked like he may have to call the cops if I didn’t get out of my car soon and start negotiating pricing on a new car.
I then felt stuck. I wasn’t texting any more but pretended like I was. One sales rep walked close enough to see that I wasn’t crazy but looked really fed up with my seeming to toy with him …if not torture him.
Once I realized I had crossed over into an inadvertent kind of torture of people I had no reason to dislike or harm in any way, I got nervous, restarted my car, backed up and drove off.
And swore I’d never do anything that cruel to car sales reps ever again.
I am writing this entreaty from the back seat of my wife’s mini van. My daughter is sitting in the font seat and controlling the music and music volume (keeping it turned up just slightly higher than she knows I want it to be) and my wife is driving and the two of them are chatting away (somehow) over the music and seem to be laughing and enjoying each others company.
I, as always, am alone in the back seat. I feel like a refugee from another country who can’t speak the language and who doesn’t understand the cultural customs.
I sometimes feel the loud music is to keep me muted. I can’t engage in the conversation anyway because 1) I can’t hear well enough to understand it (even without music blaring); 2) I don’t understand it even when I can hear it, 3) I make really “stupid” comments even when I can hear and understand what is being said.
I am worried it won’t be long until I am asked to move to the trunk part of the minivan when we go out to eat—the part behind the final row of seats and the rear hatch. It is really cold back there in the winter and even lonelier than where I am sitting now. But only by a little. (Although I suspect, on the positive side, the music won’t seem as loud)
I am writing because I, frankly, don’t know how this situation happened. It wasn’t long ago that I confidently strode to the front passenger seat every time my wife drove the family out to eat. And I didn’t even have to run to get to the front seat first. At first it was an inconvenience but it was still clear (to me, at least) who the head of the household was. But it wasn’t long –maybe two weeks or less–before that sinking confidence that I was still head of the household turned into spiraling self-doubt about my status in the family— to the current state of near obsolescence. If it wasn’t for the annoying contributions I made to family outings, my wife and daughter may not even think to acknowledge me at all.
I’ve tried to turn things around by playing to my current strengths and being even more annoying than usual but that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I thought about offering to drive but I have a smallish compact car that the family never wants to drive in anywhere –even to circle the driveway. I’m now out of plans to reassert myself to a position in my family, not of dominance, but simply relevance. I am much more realistic now. I don’t have to actually matter…just as long as family members would be willing to pretend like I “could matter.”
Is that asking for too much? Or should I start dressing more warmly and placing pillows around the flooring and sides between the hatch and back seats, where I seemed destined to find myself any night we next go out for dinner?
Winston is a several month old Ocherese weighing all of 2 1/2 pounds but with lots of confidence and spunk–and an annoying habit of making a 6:30am donation in my home office beside my work chair.
Me: (Le…aving for work.) “Hey Sweetie. Good morning.”
Winston (tail wagging and prancing outside my home office): “Check it out. I did it again.” (With evil puppy grin)
Me: “Come on, man. That’s not cool.”
Winston: “What?”;Laughing in mischievous way to self “Oh, yeah. That. Sorry. You gonna pet me?”
Me: “What if I did this to you every morning in your little pin? It would get old and you’d eventually stop licking me so much, right?”
Winston: “John, C’mon…I am a puppy. What do you expect?” Adding, “Pet me. Or I’ll do it again when you’re gone.” (Laughs mischeviously to self again and barks)
Me: “Whatever” as I reach down to pet Winston goodbye.
Is the stop light becoming the abacus of transportation technology?
Maybe I am just restless and hate waiting.
Maybe I am a complete fool when it comes to technology and logistics.
Maybe I have no right or qualifications to comment on topics, like traffic control, that I know nothing about.
Well, there’s the thing. Even if all those things are true they haven’t stopped me before.
So here goes. I was sitting at several stop lights today for very long periods of time. Several minutes which is a long time in stop light time. And there was no other traffic because it was very early. This happens to me most days and got me thinking that I probably spend about an hour a week sitting at stop lights when there is no reason to —if we had the proper smart technology. For some people sitting at stop lights unnecessarily for 50 hours a years is a huge loss in production and an inefficient use of their time. (In my case, it is probably a good protective measure and prevents me from screwing things up, but that isn’t true for everyone).
Which got me thinking about the abacus as I stared (leered, really, at the stop light). For centuries, even millennia, the abacus was considered an advanced and ingenious discovery for making mathematical calculations. And is still used today in many countries that haven’t moved over to hand calculators. (Which are actually much superior in terms of speed and efficiency).
At the time the abacus was invented, it was a breakthrough technology right up there with fire and the wheel…..but that doesn’t mean we should never try to improve on the abacus.
Hence hand calculators. So, is there a “hand calculator” like advancement on the horizon for smarter stop lights? Or is this truly the best we can do? I don’t know.
I would just hate to find out that every time I was sitting for several minutes unnecessarily at a stop light with no cars in sight it was because someone somewhere was operating the stop light from an abacus-like system. That when it was invented was an utterly brilliant breakthrough but over time could have been improved on.