If you believe that wisdom comes with age, listen up. If you think you want to retire, think twice. Life might get more complicated.
Things that once seemed minor — if not insignificant — take on a disproportionate urgency when you don’t have to punch a time clock every day.
OK, that’s accurate as far as “every day” is concerned. In my part-time role at the Bulletin after decades of holding salaried positions, I am now indeed punching a time clock, as long as I remember to do it. But my hours are flexible, and life is good.
“Good,” however, doesn’t mean less hectic. Take a recent weekend in March, for example. So many things were on my calendar, I was almost at a loss concerning what to attend and what to skip.
I said “almost.” That Saturday was our only grandchild’s third birthday, and that takes priority over everything else.
In order to attend his party out-of-town, I was forced to ditch a handful of other activities. Perhaps it was just as well a grandchild was involved, because people understand your grandchild. I would have been hard-pressed to choose which among the other events to miss.
That Saturday, I could have made a long trip to attend the annual reunion and dinner of childhood friends in North Carolina who were founding members of a boys’ choir, something I would have enjoyed because I’m overdue for a visit to see Mom. Also, it was the biggest day of the weekend for the Brownwood Jaycees’ Lone Star Expo and Rattlesnake Roundup. There was a Howard Payne alumni meeting, followed by the student Spring Sing, and I wanted to attend. The Rotary Club held its major scholarship fund-raiser, a golf tournament at the country club, and I wasn’t able to help out.
The day before, on Friday, the annual Canines, Cats and Cabernet fundraiser for the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center was held, as were two performances of “The Elephant Man” at the Lyric Theatre where I had been volunteering at the front counter. We needed to be on the road instead.
So if you didn’t see me at those places, blame it on a little blond-haired kid. I was in Austin eating cake and ice cream.
I just thought I had left crowded schedules behind when I retired.
Your calendar always gets full when spring arrives, and spring has indeed sprung. It’s the second week of April, so now it’s a sprint to school graduations. It’s also time to plan summer vacations.
For the most part, I’m ahead of the game on that. Only a few details remain to be finalized.
One of those is the aforementioned visit to see Mom in North Carolina, which I accomplished last week. While making a list of things to do, I recalled the old-time general store tucked deep in the Smoky Mountains near where I went to summer camp as a boy.
Mast General Store in Valle Crucis is a trip back to another century, long before the era of big-box national chain stores, shopping malls and online “1-Click” ordering. Everything your heart desires, and other things you didn’t know your heart desires, could be found wedged tightly on the wooden shelves inside this rustic frame building. Truly, this is one-stop shopping decades before the World Wide Web.
In a way, that lifestyle must have been nice. While today’s retail climate provides consumers with multiple options when shopping, it also creates a numbing array of details to study. How many fat calories? What color? Which strength? How much sugar? What chemicals? Which fragrance? The options seem endless.
To streamline time spent in the store, most of us return to certain familiar products, and our loyalty to them can become fanatical. OK, my loyalty can become fanatical. And there’s the problem.
Several stores I frequent have been experimenting with new products or new varieties of old products. Perhaps this is a competitive response to additional businesses in town. I applaud them for their initiative.
The only problem, however, is that I have come to prefer specific items. Sadly, after six months or so, many of those items disappear.
Occasionally, one of the products I’ve grown attached to will show up at another merchant. I appreciate that. But too soon, the item sometimes goes missing there, too.
I do much of our household grocery shopping. That came about as we shuffled duties after I retired several months before my wife did.
The other day, my grocery store visit could not be put off any longer. That set up the scavenger hunt I know too well. I spent two hours and stopped at four different grocery stores in search of only a handful of products that collectively cost maybe $50. Don’t be mistaken, local stores’ prices are competitive, but you know how far $50 goes these days.
Within a six-week span, I figure I get to see the inside of every grocery store in Brownwood and Early looking for the exact items I want.
I did manage to find the specific variety of apple and type of lettuce my wife and I prefer. But I’m still looking for things like our favorite preserves, bathroom tissue, ice cream sandwich and paper plates, just to mention a few. It dawns on me that if I had never had the option of something different, I would have been just as happy using the products we used 25 years ago. After all, why is that square paper plate better than a round one? Now I remember: it’s made of recycled materials.
Perhaps ignorance is bliss.
There is also the argument that if my life was as busy as it seemed to be before I retired, I wouldn’t have the time to care about such minor inconveniences.
That is a valid argument, but I must consider my stage in life. People expect editors to be persnickety, trending toward crotchety, and that goes double for retired editors. I like to exceed expectations.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be reached at email@example.com.