September 13, 2006

I Hope Grandma Doesn't Read This One

Old people amuse me. Just watching them is like a sport. There's something about their mannerisms that gets me all giddy. Sometimes I just sit outside at the local Starbucks for hours on end and watch the old people interacting with each other. It's kinda like going to the zoo and watching the camels, they really don't do much, but there's something about whatever they're doing that is just plain funny.

Before I go on, let me first disclaim that I don't mean to lump all old people into one category. In fact, I'll admit that most old people are fairly normal and, consequently, about as much fun to watch as Gigli - which, for the record, is not fun to watch. So if I've already offended any normal old people, let me apologize from the bottom of my rubber-tipped cane. I'm really only trying to offend the other old people.

And while I'm at it, let me clarify that I have no precise definition of when a person officially becomes an old person. Actually, I take that back. I've developed a fairly complex algorithm that takes into account ones age, family size, IQ, socio-economic status, frequency of dental visits per year and amount of hair on their head, ears, nostrils and upper-lip (women only for that last one), among other crucial factors. It takes about 20 minutes to fill out the questionnaire at which point all the data is promptly stuffed into the Old Personameter and in a few short minutes out spits a fairly accurate estimate of if and when the candidate will officially become an "old person." It's amazing. You've really got to see it.

Like Alzheimers, the Old Person affliction happens quite randomly - another one of God's little jokes, I suppose. I've witnessed the tragic, early onset in some people as young as their mid-60s, while others don't really become an old person until their 80's or beyond. You never really know when it's going to hit. The irony of it all is that you're usually the last one to know that you've become an abnormally comical elderly specimen. Ignorance, I suppose, is bliss. It also apparently is fodder for other peoples blog.

There are quite a few aspects of old people that get me smiling and telling stories like this. Of course, there's the random chewing. I'm truly fascinated by the old people who are constantly flapping their chops as if they were in the midst of a Thanksgiving feast. I've often wondered why they chew so much and I can't keep my eyes off their blathering jaws as I wonder about it. You know how amputees still feel their missing limb long after its gone? I've been thinking that maybe Old People still sense the turkey leg in their mouth, long after the thanks have been given. Perhaps it's a case of the phantom food mocking their mouths. Then again, maybe they just like chewing.

Perhaps the best Old People viewing, though, is at the early bird special. It's like the San Diego Zoo of viewing areas. There's nothing more awe-inspiring than watching the Old People eat, so you can probably imagine how the early bird special is a virtual invitation to good times.

Ah, I remember the days when I was but a wee lad and used to visit my grandparents in Ft. Lauderdale. Most kids would get all giddy about their Florida trip with innocent anticipation of a visit to Sea World, Epcot Center or Disneyworld. Not me. The hell with Mickey Mouse and I'm still not sure what type of rodent Goofy really is. Truth be told, I'd rather be at the 4:30 seating at Applebees. THAT was exciting. Who needs to see a bunch of caged dolphins jumping through SeaWorld hoops when I could experience the joys of pre-senility. Everywhere I looked, nothing but Old People acting like Old People. It was like a cross between a comedy club and a petting zoo. Ah, the joy.

So when Catherine and I went out to dinner the other night at A Votre Sante, it brought back such wonderful childhood memories for me. A Votre Sante, so you know, is no Applebees. To the contrary, it is a nice, casual restaurant in upper-class Brentwood serving food that caters to the tofu loving, Birkenstock-wearing crowd. The restaurant is widely known as a hangout for both the blonde and beautiful as well as the granola and famous. I't's quite the spot.

So you can imagine my surprise when Catherine and I entered the restaurant only to find many of the tables filled by older people. At first glance, they looked so uninterestingly normal - they often hide themselves well - so we walked in and got a nice quiet table on the side of the restaurant, perfect positioning to view the rest of the clientele. We're people watchers, Catherine and I. We're quite good at it too, if I may say so myself. And we take our people watching very seriously. Yet when we sat down next to a table of four old people, casually laughing, bantering and eating their dinner like regular people would, we assumed there would be no great people watching that evening.

About five minutes into our visit, Cat leaned over to me. Oh my God, she whispered in astonishment as her eyes began to bulge out of her face. Look at those people! I glanced behind me to see the old woman we'd seen when we'd entered. She was sitting with her friends, chatting them up as they ate their meal. And just as I began to wonder what was wrong with this picture, I saw the big bag of potato chips standing up on the floor next to her. That seems odd, I thought. Definitely a bit out of place. So I watched a little longer. And that was when I noticed how she'd take a few bites of her food then cautiously, casually reach down to her side and grab a handful of potato chips. Now I've heard of people bringing wine to a restaurant. Even a favorite salad dressing isn't unheard of. But a bag of chips? C'mon people, have we really come down to this?

Before I could even comment, Cat leaned over to me again and, in astonishment, whisperingly screamed, Oh my God! Look look! They're playing cards!

I followed her eyes beyond the potato-chip smuggling foursome to a three-top of old folks. I, too, at first didn't believe my eyes. The woman was holding a full deck of cards and just as I anticipated her next movement, she began dealing them out to her friends as if this were a Canasta Showdown. An unquenchable potato chip fix is one thing, but when did this restaurant become the game room of the Serenity Retirement Home? Will we be making paper machet Christmas ornaments next?

As our eyes went back and forth from the Terra Chip table to the Poker Chip challenge, we couldn't help but laugh. And that's when I noticed the old man sitting at the table next to Catherine. As his food arrived, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an oversized pill container. With nary a thought for others, he plunked it smack dab in the middle of the table. He didn't actually take the pills out of the container and ingest them - that would make too much sense. In fact, he didn't even mention that he was going to take the pills at all. He just put them on the table as if he were luring others into his Old People Pill trap. As if he were saying, I own this place and these are my pills and I can do with them whatever the hell I please. And so I'm going to put the dang things right here under your nose while you eat and there's nothing you can do to stop me. If you want some of my pills, go ahead, try to take them. I dare you. I'll whip out my dentures and clomp my teeth onto your hand so quickly, you won't have time to put on your Depends.

The irony of it all is that I hope I don't get old like them.
Then again, if I've been reading this blog correctly, I may be swimming in a sea of ignorance already.