A Geezer with
The St. Vitus' DanceOne of the advantages of geezerhood (besides getting up four times a night and forgetting our children's names) is that we now understand why those other anciens we knew so long ago did what they did.
For instance, there is a matter of the fly. Why do the males in the Liver-Spot Set always leave their flies unzipped? The answer is simple. Each time we zip it up, we think, "In my lifetime, I have done this at least 20,000 times. Why should I bother doing this again? Who cares? Who's interested in what's in there anyway?"
The same goes for closing our mouths, cleaning fingerprints and dandruff off our glasses, shaving, changing our shirts every day rather than every five days, and tucking in around our stomachs. Hiding the most prominent part of our bodies is tantamount to saying that we are embarrassed at its prodigious nature - - - pretending it isn't there. A great tum is a tribute to many a gargantuan meal, many a weekend of drinking and feasting, downing whole barrels of ale, consuming whole beeves. Which, alas, I can no longer do: thus it becomes a basketful of fond memories.
Further - - - I ask you: think on the Buddha. Was he hiding his lunch basket? Did he wear a vanity corset? Nonsense. Its very girth was a tribute to his ability to go into the deep relaxation of samsara, to be at one with the world, and himself.
Outside of ignoring these aspects of our personal life, there are other advantages of geezerhood. Our driving, for instance, becomes ever more exciting, ever more daring. I can drive up on the curb because I am preoccupied with other things; say, trying to remember how to get home (or even if I have a home). When I park, I can mash the bumpers in front of me and behind me because I forgot my glasses. The brakes? Since they are about as old as I am, I scarcely bother to use them any more, which means further adventures with bicyclists and pedestrians.
There is another plus, rarely mentioned. If you are a geezer, having trouble getting around, there is a fair amount of public sympathy available for the taking. This can easily be transformed into getting your way, even when you shouldn't. I had a chance to exercise this prerogative not long ago, when I traveled - - - as I do each year - - - deep down into Mexico.
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When I get into Mexicali, I pick up my worker Jesús who drives south with me each year to protect me from my absentmindedness, for instance pointing out that I am going the wrong way on a one-way street or doing 90 when I should be doing 45 or being in the left lane when there are big trucks going the opposite direction in the same lane. He points these things out in a gentle fashion, but I notice he crosses himself and kisses his thumb at the same time in case I don't hear him.
We drive for a day half-way across the upper part of Mexico to the end of the free zone and the jumping-off point at Sonoita. But when we go to pick up the papers for my car it turns out that the Mexicans have recently decided to be like the guards on the frontiers of Germany, say.
People who can't find work anywhere else go to work for the government, where they learn quickly to say no. And due to some stupid changes in the Mexican way of life, some of these bureaucrats are no longer susceptible to our kindly bribes. They have computers - - - which were unheard of five years ago - - - which can and do gum up everything, force all of us to toe the line.
One has to do extensive paperwork to get an American registered car into Mexico - - - and one is supposed to turn all that paperwork in to the government offices when one returns from vacation. But last year I forgot to surrender my truck permits. This means that when I get to the official crossing point at Sonoita, the people at Banjercito tell me they can't let me and my car back into Mexico because me and my car are still technically in Mexico, illegally. My truck and I are right there before them to show them that I have indeed returned, but it is the great logic of all bureaucracy of all times that if you didn't do it right, you didn't do it at all.
They tell me that they can't give me a visa for the car. This means that there is no way I can get into Mexico proper. I tell them this is not acceptable. I say that I have never had a problem like this before. I tell them I have gone into Mexico twenty-two times with a car and it is inconceivable that they aren't going to let me in this time. I also say I had been driving all day. I say I am very tired and then I ask, "is there no way to resolve this?" (open invitation for they call la mordida).
No, no, and no.
I then tell them I want to see whomever's in charge, "la abogada de la frontera" - - - the government lawyer who handles these visas. They say it is useless. I say let me try. They say it's useless. I say I am very tired and I want them to give me a break.
It's 8 in the evening, I'm having my usual on-the-road nervous attacks, the temperature has dropped to around 45 degrees, and the office they direct me to is all government - - - bright fluorescent lights, dirty grey walls, no heat, stacks of papers everywhere. The man at the front desk, Mr. Toad, demands to know what I want. In all my days, I have never seen a grown man who looks more like a bufadora, warts and all. Even the hands, set on the desk, palms down, turn inwards. He's squatting there, and I'm his fly.
I tell him that I want to see the "abogada." He says that's impossible, that she is very busy. I say I have to see her, just for thirty seconds. He says it's impossible. I say I'll wait.
I have Jesús put my wheel chair right next to El Bufadoro's desk, so that me and my chair are well in his line of vision. Then, with no prompting, after five minutes, I begin to shake. Northern Mexico desert country can be very cold, and I am, after all, an old guy with the heebie-jeebies in a wheel chair in an unheated government office. In the words of that ancient folk song, I begin to shake, rattle and roll.
My wheel chair is an old one, an antique (a fabled Quickie II - - - not unlike the 1953 Bentley). It has loose wheels and mysterious chains and hanging things, so there's always a clanking and banging going on. The wheel chair starts in with the Anvil Chorus, and my teeth decide to join in. Also - - - this is new - - - my arms go into spectacular attacks of palsy. It gets quite noisy in that normally quiet office.
I say nothing to Mr. Toad, don't even look at him. I just sit there and make geezer noises and jingle my bells. There even might be a spot or two of saliva that escapes my purple lips (I am no longer in control, right?) After an hour of it, the toad gives Jesús a tight smile, and tells him that the lawyer is still busy. But I sense, through all the racket, that something has changed. I have proved my bureaucratic patience, my willingness to sit forever, not cool, nor calm, nor collected, but at least a presence - - - perhaps an artistic statement: Persistent Old Fart with St. Vitus' Dance.
A signal is passed somewhere. The abogada's pretty young assistant comes in and asks me what I want. "Si mire usted estos documentos . . . " I hand her my papers and my thirty-second well-rehearsed explanation. In ten minutes she is back, tells us to go on down the ramp, that the bank will give us our papers. I thank her profusely, smile radiantly at the sullen Mr. Toad, and we are off in a flash.