Veritas Any Day Now

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Issue #99 / 16 May 2008

Practical Uses for Old People


OLD PEOPLE ARE NOT given any respect in our culture, and as I approach getting really old—as opposed to my current level of decay—I want to do something to change that. All right, I want to be respected.

Before I continue I must be honest about my age. I am sixty-nine years old, will soon be seventy, and have a rating of 1.5 on the noctourinometer, my invention and I’ll explain. That is to say, I get up, on average, 1.5 times per night to empty my bladder. Don’t be disturbed by the point-five (.5). It isn’t a measure of distance but of frequency. I always make it to the tiejobbathroom; it’s just a mathematical oddity, one-point-five. To get that figure, I perform a calculation and average, let’s say, two nights worth of trips to the bathroom for nocturnal urination. One night I might get up twice and the next night only once. That’s a total of three times in two nights divided by two (for two nights) giving me an average of one point five (1.5) as my noctourinometer rating. When I reach a three (3) on the noctourinometer scale I will worry more than I already do and might consult a urologist. But, at the same time, I might not consult a urologist in that I believe that in avoiding doctors I also avoid death. If I had time I would speak to you of my other invention, the necromedicometer, which allows for a pretty darn good estimation of one’s probable time of death based upon one's exposure to doctors.

So now that you know my age and general condition, let’s return to our original subject and speak of the lack of respect for old people in our culture.

Watch the news during what was once called the evening news hour on any network TV channel. Say, between six and seven in the evening. The demographic for that hour is old people, my age and older. I insist that our presence in front of the TV at that time of day is out of an interest in the news and not from an inability to get out of the chair.

Young people, as is well known, get their news from YouTube, cable news—all blonde, all the time— and various conspiracy blogs. But we oldsters watch the evening news between six and seven in the evening.

What is advertised on TV during those hours for the target demographic? Pharmaceuticals and health-aids usually having to do with incontinence or, the fall-back position, adult diapers. And then there are drugs for dementia and erectile dysfunction, often back-to-back in TV broadcast scheduling, which I find unfortunate. “No, Dad, that’s a plant; Mom's dead. Time to put your pants on.”

Yes, it’s all sad. The end of life. But, you see, it’s not the physical decay that’s most disturbing for us oldsters; it’s that we feel useless. Young people are out there making babies, building things for the babies they’ve made, trying to look good so they can attract others who want to make babies, building things for the babies, making babies, looking good. It’s all very cyclic and some would say boring, but that’s the way life is, and some would say it’s the meaning of life, and is the reason oldsters are no longer needed or respected. Because oldsters can’t make babies or build things for babies that have been made or, god knows, look good—in case you didn’t follow my logic, and I certainly didn’t.

But if we, as a culture, are honest about life being for the young (baby-making) and accept the sad fact of the current uselessness of the old then perhaps we can be realistic about the end of life and find a practical use for oldsters.

I’ll offer a recap here so that I can attempt to understand what I just said. Life’s only purpose is procreation. It’s the young who procreate. Oldsters don’t procreate. Oldsters are therefore without purpose and useless. Therefore, I think I understand what I just said.

But if oldsters—here’s my point, I think—if oldsters helped the young somehow (and I’m not speaking of sharing a lifetime’s accumulated wisdom, of course, which is obviously useless to the young) so that the young could continue to successfully and safely live and procreate, then oldsters would have a purpose and think of themselves as useful, and would gain respect in our culture.


So how could that be accomplished? But first another clarification. When I said something about helping youngsters procreate or whatever I said, you probably thought of some kind of guidance for the procreative act itself, something metronomic perhaps, because you have that kind of mind. Like, “One and two and thrust; one and two and thrust. That’s it young fella;. how you feelin’ girly? And, two and thrust. Keep it up, now.” No, of course not; don’t be silly. That’s not what I meant at all. My suggestions have nothing to do with an old person standing next to the conjugal bed and offering advice. For the obvious reason that there is no longer a true conjugal bed (or wedding night for that matter) and young people do the procreative act in places that are inaccessible or dangerous for old people. Highways, ladders, and rocks while they are being climbed.

No, I was thinking that old people should do jobs that the young do now, dangerous jobs, so that young people could continue to live and safely procreate. And procreation is the meaning of life, in case you’ve forgotten; and I certainly had.

I think that I have three examples of what I mean, of how oldsters could help youngsters stay safe. I wrote them down on one of my note pads, but I can’t seem to find the note pad. So I’ll try to remember. I thought I had three suggestions but now I can only remember two—without that note pad. Bright orange, thought it was in the bathroom.

OK, while I’m trying to remember all three let me start with the two I remember. And these are just examples. Once I get this idea out there, I’m sure that other practical uses for old people will come to mind, and you might have some suggestions yourself.


First, mine disasters. And just so we’re clear, let me again say that what I’m talking about is old people doing dangerous jobs that would otherwise be done by the young. For the oldster, doing a dangerous job is so much better than sitting on the couch watching TV, wondering what day it is because all days are the same and all weeks are the same and months and years... You get the idea. Again, oldsters want to be useful. Count me in.

So, mine disasters. Frequently, with mine disasters. young people, young miners, are sent into the mine in an attempt to find trapped miners. That's a stupid thing to do, much too dangerous for young rescuers because the mine is probably still unstable. The young are needed to fulfill the meaning of life; we need our young people for living, for the procreative act. So send in an oldster rescue crew is what I say. Sure, give them safety equipment and some kind of sustenance in case they’re there for a while, pack a little lunch for them—no apples because of the denture factor—and let them go to work in that dangerous mine and feel useful.

Once they are in the mine and are approaching the cave-in, I think they should start with a simple shout, “Hey sonny, you in here? Boys? Yoo-hoo! Anybody here? Supper’s ready.” Give the miners some hope. Most people perk up at the mention of food. And old people understand that. “Supper’s ready! Yoo hoo!” That mention of supper is an example of an old person's wisdom, but that’s not the reason for the presence of the oldster in the mine, nor does accumulated wisdom give meaning to the life of an oldster, as I’ve said before, I think.

So, when the trapped miners are found and contact has been made, the oldster crew could radio out a position and then sit with the trapped miners until more help arrives. And I’m thinking here that the additional help should be in the form of old mine company executives. Maybe the mines would be safer to begin with if the executives knew that they would be on a rescue crew after a collapse.

OK how about this? With the execs on the way in, it would be a good time for the oldsters to share some wisdom with the people who are trapped, a captive audience you could say, pass the time. “Say, sonny, it’s damp in here. Did you bring your rubbers? Always wear your rubbers when it’s damp so that your feet won’t get wet. What about socks? They dry? I remember when my feet got so wet...” On and on until help arrives. An oldster’s voice can be very calming, particularly when they say “sonny” and “how you feelin’? ” a lot.

So that was an oldster crew working a dangerous mine. Don’t put young rescuers at risk.

And here’s either the second of three suggestions or it could be the final suggestion if I can’t remember the third. Because I still can’t find that piece of paper, little orange pad, where I think I wrote my three ideas, and I’m having trouble remembering without it. But here’s the second one.

OK, bombs. I don’t like the idea of young people having to go into a dangerous situation where there might be a bomb. No youngsters should be on the bomb squad, is my idea. So I’m thinking that we should train oldsters to sniff-out bombs and disarm them. Call them The Bomb-Sniffing Oldsters. And, yes, I know that dogs can find bombs; but I like dogs, maybe more than old people, even though I’m old, or maybe because I’m old. I wouldn’t want to endanger a sweet dog when an oldster is ready and trained to do the same work and is close to the end of life anyway. Blam-o! Who cares? Is my thought. Go out with a bang, is another thought.

OK, inside the danger area, where the presence of a bomb is suspected, the oldster could send a radio message. “Smells funny in here. Kinda musty. Kinda like mustard and ammonia and rotten eggs. Maybe like something that’s been in the crisper too long.” The people who train the oldsters would have to develop a vocabulary that would make sense to an old person, and household and bad refrigerator smells make more sense than difficult-to-remember chemical compounds. By the time the oldster remembers “trinitrotoluene” or “ammonium nitrate” the thing could have blown. So with the type of bomb described by its odor, the bomb-sniffing oldsters would be instructed on how to disarm it.

So that was The Bomb-Sniffing Oldsters, and, O.K., this is great. I just remembered my third use for an oldster. But I’ve almost reached my word-count limit so here’s the short version. It’s Crash-Test Oldsters. Replace those crash-test dummies. Get a real body in there—old body, but real. Work for the Insurance Institute. And this is rather extreme and obviously it’s a one-time deal. But what if you’re on your way out anyway? I mean there, in the bed, with all those tubes and things. Wouldn’t it be better...? Help design a safer car for the youngsters so they can continue to procreate...? OK, no more space.

—Britt Leach

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