WHY I’M GLAD I’M THE AGE I’M AT
My wife and I had our first date 56 years ago. It was the first day I had my driver’s license, and I drove my father’s used Mercury Montclair. Up until about two decades ago, those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end:
• No seat belts, so you could sit very close in the front seat.
• People smoked on airplanes, and the first class seats reclined and weren’t beds, but you could climb the spiral staircase on the 747 and listen to a tuxedo-clad piano player while stewardesses in short uniforms served drinks. This wasn’t the worst way to spend 13 hours en route to Australia.
• We climbed the Tower of Pisa with no guards, no safety rails, no warning signs—the way it was intended to be climbed.
• I won a ride on the Goodyear Blimp in an auction (non-employees were normally forbidden to ride in it) and my wife, son, and I each steered it—now impossible because of 9/11, as if the blimp could be a terror weapon.
• We’d go to Stingray City in the waters off Grand Cayman and jump off the boat onto a sandbar to feed the rays squid. They were like leather on top and velvet on the bottom. Their wingspan was about six feet and these 200+ pound creatures would nudge my wife if she was too slow with the squid. You can’t do that any more because the Australian adventurer, Steve Irwin, was accidentally killed by a ray while trailing it way too closely and dangerously.
• In my first scuba dive after training, my son’s girlfriend panicked, and he and the instructor brought her back to the boat. I was told with hand signals to stay where I was—sitting in the sand 40 feet underwater with fish staring at me and betting on how long I’d live.
• The Cuban Missile Crisis was a crisis, worse than Viet Nam, worse than any sabre rattling in North Korea, or Iran, or China, or Russia. We were in high school and we had to comfort bawling girls in the corridors. No “world crisis” has ever bothered me much after that.
• Measles were eradicated. No one would ever dream of not vaccinating their kids.
• You didn’t have to wait 15 minutes to order dinner in a restaurant while one person in your party inquired about gluten, fat, salt, and pickles. You ordered dinner, you didn’t negotiate it.
• You could tell a woman she looked good without the threat of being charged with a sex crime.
• Kids played to win. I never received a prize for showing up, only for winning, and some coaches told me they wished I hadn’t shown up.
• It was unthinkable that anyone would write, sing, and record songs that advocated violence toward women and gangsterism, and that those songs would make millions.
• No one whined. It didn’t help. No one listened.
• I learned to deal with bullies. There was no other recourse but to deal with them. And I found out they are simply pathetically insecure, and that’s what you attack, that’s how you stand up to them
• We had homework. We did it. We learned.
• Socialism was considered awful because almost everyone had seen it during their lifetimes and realized it only rewarded those in power and no one else.
• College professors taught subjects, not ideology.
• You danced by holding a woman in your arms and swaying to the music, not by staring into space while emulating a seizure.
• Prior to emissions controls, I had a ’66 GTO with a 400 cubic inch engine and 300 horsepower that was hotter than Georgia asphalt in August. It could easily beat Corvettes. My father bought it used for $1,700 so that I wouldn’t keep using his car. He didn’t realize what it actually was. I did.
© Alan Weiss 2019