Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Life's final appeal: Don't delay, simplify

Since turning 70 last February, day by day I’m living slightly askew.

For instance, this afternoon I received in the mail — yes the REAL mail, the one with stamps — yet another appeal to join my alma mater’s alumni association. I have resisted all such appeals for nearly 50 years.

This particular pitch urged me to become a “life member” for a mere $595. Its headline read, “Your membership lasts a lifetime. Don’t delay!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or sigh.

At first I thought that it was just me reading morbid meaning into the words. Then I realized that the copywriter was having some fun with me, or at least trying to. The university’s computers no doubt had marked me as being in some existential “don’t delay” period of my life.

And so, I didn’t delay and immediately pitched the appeal into the recycling.

Life really is too short.

No question the eighth decade has a certain “don’t delay” aspect. You could start with all those unread books on my shelves.  It is now undeniable: There is no way on Earth I will read them. At least not “on Earth.”

And I’m absolutely certain that City Hall isn’t going to underground our utilities in my lifetime. (If the Europeans can bury their wires, why can’t we?) Once, in my late middle age, I boasted that I would see to it that the City of Portland would underground our utility wires before the fates undergrounded me. It was sort of a joke, but no longer.

The overhead wires, like the unread books, will outlive me.

Then there’s my cellphone, a relatively recent invention in my suddenly long lifetime. I have never mastered it. It has menus within menus within menus. It has menus FOR menus. The deceptively small contraption is a veritable thicket of lists with arrows pointing every which way.

A dark confession: I’ve been known to curse aloud at the damnable thing when I’ve been trapped in its maddening electronic labyrinth. That’s bad enough, but recently I had occasion to discover, to my horror, that, labyrinth or no labyrinth, the devilish “little black brick” was working all along. It was carrying my anguished profanities to an innocent friend on the other end of the line.

“Rick,” she asked aghast, “is that you?”

Shamefaced, I confessed it was. I begged her forgiveness and, to her credit, she laughed it off. I hope she meant it.

I now have one of those “senior-friendly” cell phones which is only moderately so. It still has one or two menus tucked inside other menus. But he nice thing about this “simple” phone in addition to its big keypad and extra loud volume, is that I can “block” the menus.

There’s really no need to be led down the maze of “feature” roads, at least at my age. I don’t need an alarm clock in my phone. I already have an alarm clock — and a radio and a calculator and a calendar and a compass. Putting them all in one device has not made my life simpler.

High blood pressure doing what it can do, “smart phones” threatened to simplify my life by simply ending it.

Then again, if that happened, my alma mater’s alumni association, at long last, could quit warning me that I shouldn’t delay about joining.

Death is beyond delays and delaying.

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