My mom says she would give anything to be as fast and agile as I am. But then, my mom is 80 years old.
Suffice it to say that I move a lot more slowly nowadays than the 20-somethings and 30-somethings who routinely speed past me like they're on their way to a fire sale.
It's not just the walking aspect, although arthritis has put a major cramp (pardon the expression) in that activity. It's the thinking-and-reacting aspect, too. It's as though my formerly dependable nerve impulses now have to stop and hold committee meetings as they make their way from my sense organs to my brain.
Which is usually not a problem. Until recently, at least. This week I was unhurriedly pushing my buggy through Wal-Mart when the cell phone in my pocket started ringing.
By the time my brain registered the fact, “Your phone is ringing,” it had rung twice. By the time my brain realized, “You need to stop and answer it, but not so quickly that somebody will run over you with their cart,” the phone had rung twice more. By the time I had pushed my cart to the side of the aisle, and had found and affixed my reading glasses to see who was calling, the total was up to six rings.
Fortunately, a young man with a beard and a bandana saw my plight and unselfishly offered his assistance: “Answer your phone, grandpa!” he called from across the aisle.
Why, thank you, son. That would never have occurred to me on my own.
It was hard for me to feel a grudge, though. Once upon a time I was bearded, bandana-ed and perky, myself. Now I'm one for three. Easy come, easy go.
If I could sit down with this young, speedy bandana guy over a bowl of soup, say, or even a bowl of something more exotic, I would try to explain to him that the slowed-down movement of his ancestors all around him is, in a bizarre way, a good thing for him. A public service, even, on their (our) part.
For example, I'm perfectly capable of driving my car just as fast as I used to. What I'm not capable of is hitting the brake pedal as fast as I used to, when some whippersnapper in a sports car pulls out unexpectedly from a side road. Which is why, these days, I drive very slowly, by comparison.
(The moral of this story: Ask not for which whippersnapper's car's side door the front bumper of the crabby old guy's Oldsmobile tolls; it tolls for thine.)
If young whippersnappers really wanted to be of help to me, they would perform such acts of kindness as whispering in my ear when my zipper and/or buttons are in disarray, or when my eyebrows are in such need of combing that they're starting to resemble a chinchilla crawling across my forehead.
Or, they could help head off such embarrassments as happened when I was leaving that same store immediately after the cell phone incident, and realized that kids in the parking lot were pointing underneath my cart and snickering, as they passed.
I bent down to take a look, thus discovering that a clear plastic bag containing the two huge, ripe plums I'd just bought had succumbed to gravity so as to hang through the wire bottom of the cart, resembling one of those ornaments that some impudent whippersnappers are hanging from the trailer hitches of their pickup trucks, nowadays.
I quickly remedied the situation, just as I realized I had no idea where I'd parked my car. So I began my current equivalent of an exercise program, pushing my cart up and down the grid of the parking lot until my Cutlass at last hove into view. Which gradually takes longer and longer, considering my ever-encroaching slowness.
If only some public-spirited young person had sprinted toward me, at that point, shouting: “Your car's right here, grandpa!”
Why is it you can never find a whippersnapper when you need one?
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program "Music from Home" airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM and is archived afterward on his website.