Monday, March 03, 2014

Not Dead Yet!

With six or more inches of snow on the ground, a sheet of ice on every road, and federal buildings closed in the DC area, it gives a man time to think. That's when I put the regular feature for today on hold, and also when I came across this:

At age 90, Ralph Hall is the oldest sitting member of the House of Representatives in U.S. history — a World War II veteran who exercises regularly, drives himself to campaign events and has voted in sync with his conservative Texas constituents for 33 years.

But as Hall enters the final stretch of what he says will be his last campaign, whether he makes it back to Congress could boil down to one question: Is 18 terms too many?

John Ratcliffe, his lead opponent in Tuesday’s GOP primary, believes voters will agree that Hall has been in Washington long enough ...

Yeah, that's possible, but that could also be said about damn near everybody on the Hill that's been there for more than two or three terms. They come to Washington for the first time, wanting to be the next Mister Smith. They arrive at National Airport, with that free parking spot, a ten-minute limousine drive to the office, free haircuts at the office, the ability to tear up parking tickets in an officer's face, and let's not forget that private bowling alley ...

But this isn't about that.

Unless you're rich and/or famous, divorce affects most of us financially. Go through it once, and you spend the rest of your life paying for it, especially if children are involved (which there was), and especially if the former ball-and-chain gets half of your pension upon retirement (which she won't). The way I've figured it out, the earliest I can leave is at the end of the year of Our Lord 2020, with forty years of service, when I will have just turned sixty-six. But I may stick around for four more years, in which case I would retire at seventy. Now, just saying that seems shocking. Why would anyone want to work until they're seventy?

Here's my answer: Why would the same people not ask the same thing of a public figure who is pushing ninety?

Oh, sure, there are people saying that, including this John Ratcliffe guy who wants the old man's job. But if you thought the Gentleman from Texas was one of your heroes, you'd just as soon keep him there until he turned one hundred, no questions asked. Keep fighting the good fight, pops. But we don't do that right off the bat. And we assume that everybody who retires is just like the couples in those commercials for financial companies who want to help you plan your retirement. There's a few people like that, but most would rather stay home and tend to their garden, or enjoy their grandchildren.

Me, I'll probably keep writing, or maybe play more guitar. Maybe get paid for it. Or something.

The men in my family tend to live a very long time. My father was eighty-six years old when he left us, and he had suffered from multiple sclerosis for the entire second half of those years. Hell, even the drunks in my family live into their eighties. So unless I get hit by a bus, the odds for me are pretty damn good.

Dad once told me that most men don't like what they do for a living. Dad worked at Procter and Gamble for twenty-four years before leaving on disability. His occupation at the world headquarters was "Sales Assistant." He was a detail man, essentially, for "Packaged Soap and Detergent" (or "PS&D"). His job was to keep track of the doings of sales guys in the field -- what they delivered, how much they delivered, how much arm-twisting they did to get a retailer to move so much product for so much of a price break per unit, stuff like that. Every eye was dotted, every tee was crossed, every jot and tittle accounted for. Dad didn't particularly like what he did for a living. He just happened to be very, very good at it.

After more than thirty years as a graphic designer, I decided that I had gone as far as I was going to go creating new varieties of landfill (publications). Five years of part-time studies in web design ended when there was a regime change at the office, and a subsequent refusal to let me finish, just short of the one requirement for getting the diploma, a requirement I later learned was dropped, thus screwing me out of a diploma -- thanks a lot, Art Institute -- seemed to spell out another dead end.

But even a curmudgeon-in-the-making can find a silver lining. I had worked with video cameras before, and had learned enough about animation software at the Art Institute, to transfer that skill to video editing software. So I did, and wowed the Powers That Be. I still wow them, and I'm happy for it, since it got me out of that black hole of an occupation I was in for so many years.

When you get a new lease on life in mid-career, you either go for it, or you're gone. I used to watch older people at the agency, hanging around with nothing to do, their jobs made obsolete by new developments or new technology, and the management just couldn't take them out and shoot them or force them to retire, much less fire them. So those geezers hung around, looking listless, and useless. I was determined to never be one of those guys.

And so, tomorrow, if there's any chance at all of going into work, that's what's gonna happen. God has been good. I love my job. It's the least I can do, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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