Column | Vacationers of a certain age
My family has just finished an Orlando-area vacation, and while my wife is several years younger than I, it’s more blindingly obvious than ever that I’m at an awkward age as a tourist.
I’m in that “no man’s land” between pushing a stroller and riding a motorized cart, between ringing the arcade bell with a hammer and employing a ball peen hammer to open a child-proof pill bottle.
I don’t need oxygen tanks or pacemakers, but neither am I one of those insufferable young adults who always sets off theme park metal detectors even without keys and pocket knives. (“Ha ha! It’s just my ABS OF STEEL! Oops, I’d better put them to use. My slender blushing bride accidentally passed between the molecules of the glass enclosure of the snake exhibit. Guess she was a little light-headed because we’ve already made love 36 times since we arrived at the shuttle station. Ha ha.”)
Tourist-mecca restaurants are especially adept at reminding me of the tightrope I walk. The harsh lighting in the bathroom makes me look half-past Tutankhamun, but at most eateries I’m still two to seven years away from being qualified to sit at the Big Kids Table and get a senior discount.
Speaking of the lighting, I no longer feel compelled to buy stuffed animals twice the size of my son; but I do find myself buying bottles of sunscreen twice the size of my FIRST CAR.
Unlike shortsighted tourists 20 or 30 years my junior, I don’t automatically scoop up every single overpriced souvenir that catches my eye. Older and wiser, I just want to find a good wholesale lumber yard on my travels, so I can purchase a cheap two-by-four to prop up my sagging bookshelf of “De-clutter Your Home” books.
I’m spry enough that the swing music played at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was already relegated to OLDIES stations when I was in college; but I’m not as young as the baggy-pantsed whippersnappers who are shocked that the lyrics of one Johnny Mercer song aren’t, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive/Eliminate the negative/Latch onto the affirmative/And kill any cop who harasses you for slapping your (expletive deleted) and her sister!”
At my age, “girl watching” now consists of observing standard-issue four-year-old tykes handle the roller coasters with a lot less screaming and nausea than I do. I wish I could hang around to see how strong their stomachs are when they finally draw their first Social Security check!
Tourists older and younger than me may grab theme-park 3-D glasses with glee, but my heart-stopping first impulse is “Does my company vision plan cover this?”
If my car breaks down on the road, I can’t quite give a mechanic the old “fixed income” story. And somehow “I’ll have to suck up to my boss and score some more overtime” doesn’t have quite the same ring.
I’m old enough to have my own mortgage paid, but young enough to slave at helping a motel conglomerate pay off its indebtedness.
The final indignity is that the friends of retired vacationers can’t remember what the traveler needed a vacation from – and the co-workers of pre-retirees like me can’t remember how they ever got along without the new guy who was hired in the vacationer’s absence.
“Watch this! He’ll use his abs of steel to haul all the paperwork we saved for you!”