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Reflections April 2012

Move, It's an Old Guy!

By Jim Cotsana

She yelled, "Move, it's an old guy." Wondering who they were referring to, I looked from side to side and in my rearview mirror and there was no other vehicle or person in sight.

It was around 3:00 p.m. and I had just dropped off some groceries to a friend and was on my way home. My friend lives about a block from the local high school, where the students were getting out for the day. I didn't want to drive by the school with all the foot and bus traffic, so decided to take a short side street to avoid the congestion.

As I turned the corner, there was eight to ten high school girls with backpacks, walking slowly stretched across the street, talking amongst themselves or on their ubiquitous cell phones. I slowed down to a creep and one young lady happened to turn and saw me. She yelled, "Move, it's an old guy."

Wondering who they were referring to, I looked from side to side and in my rearview mirror and there was no other vehicle or person in sight. It quickly dawned on me whom they were referring to. Half the girls moved to the side of the road but the others, apparently not hearing this request, continued walking in place.

Again, the young lady yelled "Move over, there is an old guy coming." They slowly turned and to see who she was referring to and this group started to move over as well.

I was initially a little irritated by this comment but also found it rather humorous. I slowly pulled up to the group with the young lady who yelled the caution. When I was beside them, I rolled down my window and, with a smile I asked "Who are you calling an old guy?" They looked at me and started to giggle and three of them in unison yelled, "Sorry".

As I drove off, I thought back of my high school days at the same school. I remember that when you're 16 and 17, anyone over 35 or 40 was considered an old guy. But now at 63, I must certainly look like the proverbial old guy to them. I'm retired and collect both a government pension and Social Security which is something I didn't think about in high school. I exercise regularly and, so far, am on no medications and the numbers during my last physical were excellent. My weight has varied little since I graduated from high school and I bet I could still fit into my Marine Corps uniform. However, to be honest with myself, there have been some obvious and significant changes in my appearance.

During my high school days, I had a long, thick brown hair. While in college, I would frequently don a full beard in harmony with the times and rode a Triumph motorcycle. Earrings for men were not in vogue at the time nor were tattoos -- and I certainly don't feel I'm in a mid-life crisis nor see the need for either at this time in my life. However, earrings displayed on a variety of body parts along with numerous tattoos, both visible and concealed, on both men as well as women seem to be quite popular.

During the last decade, my hair is no longer brown but gray and very short around the sides with nothing on top. My exterior has changed and I do indeed look much older that my photo in the high school yearbook can attest to, but I feel considerably younger. I run three to four miles four to five times a week; a habit a picked up and maintained from my Marine Corps days. During the spring and summer months, I spend hours on the near-by rivers and streams fly fishing in waist-high water fighting the current. What I feel on the inside does not necessarily translate to what one sees on the outside.

Thinking back on my high school days, I shouldn't really be surprised. The young lady was not being the least bit rude but telling it exactly how she viewed it. Remember perception is reality. I most likely would have said the same thing in her place. It was just a matter of her perception and the reality of the 45 years that passed in my life.

I fondly remember these days and I certainly had a great time. My grades were OK but nothing to celebrate. But would I want to go back and relive those days with what I know now? Not a chance! I'm very content being the old guy who had a great career and was able to do and see many things I could only dream about in high school. I also have the time and the means to do the things I didn't have time for the last 60 years. I would like to think that these young ladies will have similar opportunities as they grow and mature. And maybe in 40 years or so from now they'll think back with the same humor I felt when a group of kids sees them driving and yell, "Move, there's an old person coming!"

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