"We are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and to be a part of the problem is to be human." -- Anthony Doerr, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hot Topics at the Lunch Table

     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.


Meryl Baer said...

My Dad was part of a breakfast club like yours - the ROMEOs - Retired Old Men Eating Out. The men had a great time, and their wives loved it too!

Rubye Jack said...

I wouldn't mind having a generator but really wouldn't be able to justify the expense to myself. It seems the main topic of conversation with women around here is gossip. Personally, I can live without it.

Janette said...

My husband invited me to one of these lunch meetings. They tried to prove they had something to talk about. In the end your three topics were hit and lunch was over.

Rosaria Williams said...

Keep up these meetings, if nothing more than to let your wives have a bit of time off. Just kidding. Without work, we have so little to add to conversations.

Are you all leaving for warmer places? Lucky you.

Olga said...

My sister/brother-in-law were without power for 11 days (CT) after that Halloween storm. They have a generator and are quite glad they do.

So now I am very disappointed. I always thought those men gathered for breakfast/lunch were soling all the problems of the world. Well, don't worry, the little old ladies are on it.

Tom said...

Thank God for the "little old ladies." We know that without them, we'd be sunk!

#1Nana said...

Fortunately most of my friends are pretty healthy so we don't have to talk about our aches and pains...we do, however, talk about the obituaries. There's always someone, usually much older than us, who died. Recently a former co-worker was arrested for hit and run and drunk driving and was sentences to a year in jail...that took up a lot of conversation time! You're right that we talk about our children and grandchildren. A big topic is also what's on sale...we do more talking about shopping than actual shopping!

stephen Hayes said...

You guys sound like a sitcom. Apply canned laughter, shake and stir.

gabbygeezer said...

Your guys couldn't possibly solve all the world's problems. A group I met with for coffee every Wednesday for some years ago solved all the big problems.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I would say health topics are mostly what we discuss among friends. Exchanging experiences and tips, it's actually been helpful. Second come politics, but we are more and more disavowing this topic. We feel we will be "checking out" about the time things go completely haywire.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

I hate to say it Tom, women have more interesting conversations. But you knew that. Dianne

Friko said...

Well, that conversation was as boring as the conversations ladies in their middle-age have around here.

I suppose you can bear once in three months or so, but anymore and you'd find your mind exploding, No?

And i thought men talked about sex and sport, in that order.

Jono said...

That's scary, Sightings. I am 60 and 200 pounds and it sounds like many of my conversations. I suppose in 20 years the talk changes to bowels, but I really hope not.

stevgravy said...

I hope to be there someday. I'm 50, a job slave at my desk & computer, suffering from probably a pinched nerve (I dropped my health insurance so I'm scared to find out what's wrong), and have almost no retirement savings. I have tons of work-stress stories. So, if I live, I'm sure I'll have plenty to talk about.

mpg said...

I love the conversation...At age 58, I would love to have a girls club that does the same... (since I'm female of course) Hmmm...Perhaps, I shall initiate the start of one. I just read the article of the best places to retire being focused on where your friends are vs warm weather. Totally makes sense. I grew up in MO, lived in Fl 13 years, now in Tenn for 11 years, albeit, I feel MO is where I'd like to be ultimately since my closest friends are there... Nothing like friends from childhood with a trove of memories to share. SO - Wow - How costly are those generators! Even at 3,500... But, perhaps, if a natural disaster and/or worse yet,,,the Mayans demise of 2012, might come in handy in a country setting, eh? Cheerio ol chums... look forward to your next conversation...(well, as long as it doesn't rotate around golf I suppose) mpg

mpg said...

wait...jeez...I'm 57...not 58 as posted previously...so, felt I had to clarify that! Good grief...short term memory loss is bad...(there you go, health issues again)

Anonymous said...

Tom, I enjoyed your "Real Best Places to Retire". It was spot on. I see so many people making decisions based on the weather or where they went on vacation once 15 years ago, while friends, family and community are the real issues.

I'm 58 and was "eased" into "retirement". That means I was laid off. But financially, I'm ok, so I'm calling it a 'trial' retirement.

Healthwise, I took up cycling about four years ago.

hfarnham said...

Its interesting that the topic is where to retire and how to decide where you "really" want to be. I have been saying for years now (I am not retiring for 10 years yet) that when the time comes, I want to "go home" where my family is. We have been in FL almost 30 years, but no matter how long we are here, DC is still home and, even with weather, the traffic and the cost of living, "home" is where I want to be. In a perfect world we would be snow birds - winter in FL and go home when the Spring thaw begins.

hfarnham said...

Its interesting that the topic is where to retire and how to decide where you "really" want to be. I have been saying for years now (I am not retiring for 10 years yet) that when the time comes, I want to "go home" where my family is. We have been in FL almost 30 years, but no matter how long we are here, DC is still home and, even with weather, the traffic and the cost of living, "home" is where I want to be. In a perfect world we would be snow birds - winter in FL and go home when the Spring thaw begins.

Anonymous said...

A group of friends is so important. I am in my middle 50's and have a group of women that I have been meeting with every Saturday for breakfast for over 17 years. The cast changes every once in a while, but a couple of us are still originals. We talk about health, family, etc. but most of us are very involved with our community so there is always lots to talk about. Tell your guys to get out and help in the community- there is so much that needs to be done and we all have so much to offer. Work doesn't stop after you retire and neither does life!

Ms Fit said...

Sounds like you guys are having a fine time.
I just recently finished massage training at 52. This school is in a chiropractic clinic with the Doctor himself teaching anatomy. Your friend "Joe's" problem with his shoulder was actually something the doctor addressed. Most of the time it's cause by a tendon that fits in a groove at the top of the upper arm bone being out of the groove. If Joe has a good chiropractor--and at our age, who doesn't?--hie himself hence. If that is the problem he'll be waving his beer in the air in no time.
Meanwhile--generators? The power went out when I was visiting my parents once. We had stew mom had frozed in the stew pots warmed up on the wood stove. I'm with you and B.

RVGolfer said...

OK, guys
First time I've read your blog, and enjoyed it, but had to comment about your pals: 200 pounds and health complaints? Maybe you ought to shed some weight.
I weighed 225 a few years back, but lost 45 of it and have kept it off for 10 years now. At 6'4" and 69, I weigh 182. Played power volleyball until my knees gave out a couple years back.
I have a buddy older than I am who plays basketball every Wednesday with our 59 year old junior member. We're golfers who walk.
I'm not great at exercise, but it's worthwhile. Don't just talk about your health: Do something.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
I enjoyed reading your article about the best place to retire in 2012.
That is nice and it is your opinion.
Retiring in Mexico is probably the best compromise.
But that could be the theme of another article.
I then went to check you blog, and then surprised.
You guys are not doing much in retirement and you sure carry a lot of weight.
I am 62 years old, without a job since 2003
I weight 169 lbs and I feel great, when I was in activity smoking and drinking some 10 years ago, I felt like your friend I was then 220 Lbs.
One thing explain another.

th_01 said...

Wow You guys are falling apart. Maybe you should walk to breakfast first.

Your retire where you live is an approach I have considered. But I was thinking more inline with living somewhere else for short periods and eventually coming back home. Adventure and exploration are great for keeping your mind and body sharp.

Retired in your late 50's You lucky guys

Anonymous said...

Ok guys, I can relate. Except, I can afford to retire. In fact, I need the job to take the vacation, and so on... you can see the vicious downward cycle here. And as for the generator, I just bought the turnkey package of the Gererac 7500E, which is an electric start 7500 Watt Genny. A local electrician company installed the lockout switch and outside connection. All in it cost $2100.00. Separate the genny was $900 and the installation was $1200. Well worth it! Someday, I'll be retired; of course I've got lots of health stories to tell, but right now, it's looking good. Thanks for sharing.