When I arrived at the doctor’s office early Monday morning, patients were already waiting in line, and I knew I wouldn’t be getting out in time to make the 9:36 express into the city. In fact, the way things were going, I might not arrive at Grand Central until Halloween. The miracle of modern healthcare and the miracle of mass transportation.
Then, the fun began. A tall guy arrived, who looked like he spent the last 47 years at Woodstock, wearing cut-off jeans, a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, long gray hair with a pony tail and a beard. If I had long gray hair and a pony tail, I still might be listening to Led Zeppelin. On the other hand, I already have tinnitus from too many years of rock ‘n’ roll.
After the veteran hippie signed in, he approached a fellow near me, who asked, “How’s it going, Bro?”
That’s the kind of question you don’t really expect an answer to, the kind of question you don’t really WANT an answer to, but the tall guy answered anyway.
“I’m living the dream … actually, it’s a nightmare, a real nightmare,” he grumbled.
At that point, I was ready to open my big mouth, insert my foot and say, “Brother, ain’t that the truth!”
There’s nothing more enjoyable than complaining about how bad you got it even when things are going well, but before I could fan the flames, the guy beside me responded, “I’m loving life!” He said it with such vigor and enthusiasm that I thought, “This geezer must be on some major medication. Could he be joking?”
He was serious and he was intense and he didn’t stop. He must have been a veteran of Woodstock, too — still flying high from all the flower power.
“I’ve been retired 12 years, and I’m enjoying every minute of it!” he exclaimed. “I couldn’t be happier!” Every sentence ended with an exclamation point, and he was gushing so much I could feel the positive vibes channeling through the office like nitrous oxide. Who thought retirement could be such an uplifting experience?
Needless to say, a tense silence descended on the conversation. Here were two diametrically opposed views of life from two guys who lived through the ’60s and ’70s, that memorable era of bell-bottoms, polyester leisure suits, disco, psychedelic rock, the sexual revolution, and the peace movement. Was life a dream or a nightmare?
How would they resolve their differences? Would they arm wrestle? Would they throw a few punches? Would they roll the dice? Would they curse at each other and yell, “Heretic! Obfuscator! Blood sucker! Make love not war! Power to the people!” Or in the spirit of Woodstock, would Mr. Rogers jump up with open arms to embrace Oscar the Grouch and say, “Gimme some sugar!”
Finally, the Grouch said, “I tried retirement but didn’t like it, so I went back to work and I like that even less.”
This was worse than listening to Abe Vigoda singing, “Tomorrow, I love ya! You’re only a day away!”
Then, a Dunkin Donuts commercial came on the TV and announced they’d be giving out free donuts. The positive guy said, “Would you look at that! Free donuts! Maybe I’ll get some for the grandkids …” But the Grouch grumbled, “Those things will kill you. I stopped eating them years ago.”
By now, I was convinced these guys belonged to different political parties: one would vote for Donald Trump and the other would vote for SpongeBob SquarePants.
Their exchange led me to several life-transforming conclusions:
- A lot of Baby Boomers never recovered from Woodstock.
- Retirement is a great thing, but it could be a terrible thing.
- Donuts will kill you or at least put you in a neck brace.
- I don’t know whether I’m living the dream or just plain dreaming.
- You’re only as happy as you want to be. It’s in the attitude.
Their quibbling also reminded me of two women I knew who disagreed bitterly about a topic of cosmic importance — birds. One woman told me she loved to lie in bed in the morning when the birds were chirping so she could listen to the music that “God’s little creatures” made for her to enjoy.
The other woman said, “Those #%!#** birds! Why don’t they shut up so I can sleep?!?!!”
I’m certain of one thing. I love to listen to birds chirping at daybreak because it’s a lot better for my health — mental, physical and spiritual — than listening to Led Zeppelin.
Contact Joe Pisani at [email protected]