I'm one of those older guys -- not really old, but plenty of gray hair -- you see having lunch by himself during the week at the food court at the mall, reading his kindle. Or having a weekday lunch with a couple of other "beached males" at Chilis. Did you ever wonder what three retired guys in their late 50s or early 60s were talking about over at the next table? Don't get your hopes up. Not sex. Not wives. Not children. We don't brag about our children in my group, even though (I like to think) most us probably could.
One guy has a microbrew beer from the tap. One has a glass of house white wine. One drinks a Diet Coke with a straw. Three guys, about 200 pounds each, taking up a whole table and then some at Chilis. At one point we looked at each other, and wondered if we were a parody of ourselves. But then we thought, what's so wrong about three guys having lunch? So here are the hot topics at our Chilis Roundtable.
1) One of us, I'll call him Peter, has just come from physical therapy. He's had a pinched nerve, or bulging disk, in his neck, with pain in the shoulder and tingling and numbness down his right arm to his hand. He's asking me about my experience with the same problem -- from which I suffered for five or six years, until I left work, when it miraculously cleared up. Peter complains that the pain is worse when he's sitting at the computer. But what's he gonna do? He has to spend a lot of time at the computer.
The third guy, who I'll call Joe, chimes in that he has a similar problem -- he really can't lift his right arm above his shoulder, and when he tries to pick up anything heavy with his right hand, he gets a shooting pain in his elbow. He illustrates how he can't pick up a full mug of beer with his right hand, taking a big gulp using his left.
"John McCain has that same problem," I deadpan, looking at Joe. "Were you a prisoner of war during Vietnam?"
Joe laughs. I don't know what he was doing during the Vietnam war. Probably still in school. He's a little younger than me, and likely didn't graduate from college until after the draft was abolished in 1973. But anyway, I know he was never anywhere near the army.
Yes, our number one topic of conversation is our health -- or rather, our medical complaints. We thus prove that older men are no different from older women, who are notorious for going on and on about their medical issues. Our conversation then turns to the drugs we are taking. Joe suffers from diabetes, and, it seems, a whole list of other problems, and both Joe and Peter are on blood thinners for their hearts. Joe reminds us that he had his first heart attack at age 47, almost exactly one year after he quit smoking.
2) A pause in the conversation brought a change of subject. Joe is considering buying a gas-powered generator for his house. We had that Halloween snow storm this year, which left a lot of people without power for three or four days. We usually lose power out here in the country, in the northern suburbs of New York, about two or three times a year. A few people in the neighborhood have generators just for that purpose.
For a lot of people, including Peter, the Halloween storm was the final blow. Peter has ponied up $10K to install a whole-house propane generator that goes on and off automatically when the power is cut. This seems ridiculous to me. But Peter says, "What happens if you're away in the winter, and the electricity goes off for three or four days, and the temperatures are in the 20s? Your pipes freeze, and you could cause $100K worth of damage."
Peter has lived in his house for about 20 years. That problem hasn't happened yet. And he doesn't even do that much traveling. But, apparently, he's a belt-and-suspenders man.
Joe doesn't want to do anything that spectacular, and doesn't want to spend that much money. He's shopping for an 8000-watt gas-powered generator. But he wants the one with an electric starter (rather than the pull cord) so his wife or daughter would be able to turn it on if he's not around. This will set him back "only" around $3500.
B and I have talked about the possibility of getting a generator. But I'm not much of a "technical" guy. If the power goes off, I'm happy to spend a night in the dark, and if it goes on for any longer than that, spring for an overpriced hotel room. As for B, she says, "My grandmother didn't have any electricity at all in her house. I think we can handle a couple of days, if it comes to it."
That B. She's a tough one.
3) The generator talk exhausted, our conversation turns to a more pleasant subject. Where are you going this winter? I'm headed to Arizona and Southern California. My two friends want to know some of the details, and Joe offers a little advice from when he was there a few years ago.
Joe is talking about making a trip to Florida. We have a friend who bought a place near Ft. Myers last year. He's already left for three months in the sun, and he's invited us all down for a visit. Joe's wife is still working. She's got a trip planned to Florida for business. He's thinking of going down with her; then sending her home and taking an extra few days to play golf with our friend.
Peter is thinking about a trip to the Dominican Republic. I tease him: Isn't there a lot of crime in the Dominican Republic? Don't the locals resent the tourists and pull hold-ups? But Peter doesn't take the bait. He only worries about his pipes freezing, not getting robbed on vacation. He and his wife went there a few years ago and had a great time. He wants to go back, probably sometime in March.
So what do you think? We've caught up on one another's lives. Health. Generators. Vacation. We'll reconvene in late March or early April, to make plans for golf season.