"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Do You Have Your REAL ID?

     "On May 3, 2023 U. S. travelers must be REAL ID compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities." -- U. S. Department of Homeland Security.

     Starting in May 2023 your regular drive's license will no longer serve as proper identification. If you don't have a REAL ID, which is a specially certified driver's license, you'll need to produce a valid, current passport.

     Have you received a notice with a link to apply for your REAL ID? I moved to Pennsylvania four years ago, and the state has all my current information. I was informed that I was pre-qualified to get my REAL ID online. So I filled out the form, sent it in, and commenced to wait.

    Eventually I got a message back, telling me that I was not pre-qualified after all, due to "Error 6001."

     I wrote back: "What is Error 6001?"

     I got an answer. Something to do with my Social Security number. So I had to go to a PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) office in person to apply for my REAL ID.

     I looked it up. My nearest office is open Tues. through Sat. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Well, I think I'm pretty smart, so I decided to arrive right at 8:30 before anyone else got there.

     I gathered my materials: Social Security card, passport, driver's license, an electric bill showing my address. Then I jumped in my car a little after 8 a.m. and drove to the PennDOT office, located in a strip mall. I pulled into the almost-empty parking lot, once again congratulating myself on how smart I am.

     Except there was a group of cars crowding one side of the parking lot. Then I saw a line of people strung out along the entire front of the mall. And I realized, once again, that I'm not as smart as I think I am. 

     I almost gave up, thinking I'd come back another day. But what day? When would motor vehicles be any less crowded? I heaved a sigh (and maybe a curse word), then parked my car, trudged up to the back of the line, and waited for the place to open.

     Five minutes later the doors swung out, and the line slowly disappeared into the building. Amazingly enough, I found myself at the door in just a few minutes. "What are you here for?" a man asked, as I donned my mask.

     "My REAL ID."

     He gave me a number and told me to take a seat. I walked into the room, noticing that people were socially distanced. I took a seat next to two empty chairs. I saw half a dozen windows in front of me, with numbers lit up on a screen on the wall. I sat down, looked around at the people, then pulled out my phone and commenced to bide my time.

     I decided I ought to check my paperwork. Yes, all my ID papers were there. Then I pulled out the PennDOT instructions. A payment of $60 was required. Credit cards were accepted online. But in person, the requirement was check or money order.

     Oh God. I didn't bring my check book! Would I have to go back home to get it and return? And wait some more? Was this going to take all day?

     Then I remembered. I had cash. I pulled out my wallet. There was a $50 bill, along with a $5 and a $10 and a few ones. Maybe they would take cash. I decided to wait it out.

     The fellow who'd been in front of me in the line outside went up to the counter. He didn't take long. Then they called my number. I saw it on the screen. I felt like I'd won the lottery!

     I walked up to the counter and was greeted by a friendly woman who asked my name and birthdate, wanted to see my license. "Oh, this is easy," she said. "You're pre-qualified."

     Really? I confessed that PennDOT had told me there was something wrong with my application. Error 6001. She looked at her computer. "I don't know what 6001 is. But everything looks in order."

     Then I gulped. "Um, I didn't bring my checkbook. Do you take a credit card? Or ... I have cash."

     "We don't take cash," she said. "A credit card is fine. Just insert it in the machine."

     I put in my credit card, signed the form she slipped to me across the counter. She told me my REAL ID would arrive in the mail in ten days or so. 

     Mission accomplished -- in just half an hour! The woman behind the window was even nice.

     So I await my REAL ID, hoping I don't get any more error reports. Starting in May 2023, I'll be able to enter federal buildings and take a domestic flight, without worrying about carrying a passport. Gee . . . I wonder if I'll need a vaccination card.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

As My Mother Used to Say . . .

     I first knew there was something going on when I heard my teenage son say that something was "sick" -- meaning is was really good. Or it was "fat" -- which made it even better. Except I think he and his friends spelled it "phat."

     More recently I've heard him talk about "doom scrolling" -- which refers to trolling through the Internet looking for negative news about the economy or anything else. He's mentioned "ghosting" -- which means ending a relationship by suddenly and without explanation halting all communication.

     My, how things have changed. 

     When I was a kid things were much more simple. Something was either "cool" or it was, "Hey, that's not cool."

     We must have had a few other references and sayings. But I think I took most of them from my parents. For example, my mother would always caution us kids that we didn't want to find ourselves, "Up a creek without a paddle."

     She also used to tell us that "a stitch in time saves nine" -- which basically means the same as "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." She also warned us: "Better safe than sorry."

   My dad always told us that "we reap what we sow." But his favorite saying was: "A penny saved is a penny earned." And then he'd go on to explain that, actually a penny saved is really more than a penny earned because the penny you earn is subject to income and payroll tax. He was a stickler for detail. And also a child of the Depression.

     Of course, these old sayings are "a dime a dozen." But let's face it, they are often so true that they "hit the nail on the head."

     I remember my high-school math teacher used the phrase: "Belt and suspenders." I think it means essentially the same as "better safe than sorry." But the point is, the teacher wanted us to solve a problem, then go back and check our work, and even go back and check it again. (I never went that far, which might explain why I got Bs in math and not As.)

     My next-door neighbor liked the phrase: "That's a fine kettle of fish." I'm not even sure he knew what it meant. But his parents used the phrase, and he liked to mock his parents . . . in front of his friends, but never in front of the parents themselves.

     I don't mean to open up a can of worms. But don't just sit there like a lump on a log. What are some of the truisms you learned from your mother or father . . . or passed on to your own kids? Go ahead. Don't be a stick in the mud. You can let the cat out of the bag. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

What's Your Retirement Type?

     When we're younger our identity is often defined by our career. We're a teacher, a doctor, a banker, a homemaker. But after we retire things change. We find a new identity or new profile . . . if for no other reason than having a way for people to remember us.

     So what's your retirement type? Are you . . . 

     1. The Grandparent. I myself would like to be more of a grandparent. But my grandkids live in three different states -- not one of them the state where I live. But I know several people -- mostly women, but a few men as well -- who live near their children and babysit the grandchildren several days a week, or live with their children and take care of the grands so the parents can work. This has now become their role in life, to take care of the kids. And I, for one, believe this is an honorable and meaningful role.

   2. The Sportsman. I belong to a golf group that plays every Wednesday from April through October. I like to play golf. But I'm not a fanatic. Some of these guys play three times a week, and continue through November and into December, as long as there's no snow on the ground. They are the true Golfers. I have a friend who's a Cyclist. He bikes 15 or 20 miles three or four days a week. Another is into sailing and canoeing. Some people have more exotic pastimes -- like my friend the pumpkin chucker. Yes, there's a sport called pumpkin chucking which involves hurling or chucking a pumpkin for distance by mechanical means. 

     3. The Volunteer. I was never much of a volunteer in my younger days. I was too busy going to work and earning a living and taking care of my kids. But in retirement I've found a lot of satisfaction in volunteering for several organizations. I tutored kids at our community college, I've helped adults with ESL, and I'm currently volunteering with a senior group. Maybe I'm a volunteer -- but with a small "v." I know people who volunteer like a fulltime job with their church, a veterans organization, a community center, an environmental group. Their true identity is Volunteer. 

     4. The Traveler. We focus our travel on the grandchildren -- since, as I mentioned, they live in three different states. But we have friends who, before Covid, would go on three or four cruises a year. They're already planning a cruise for the fall, and maybe another one next winter. Another couple we know has already been to the Maldives this spring. They're heading to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks; then a week in San Francisco; then a trip to Italy in the fall.

     5. The Homebody. Some people are more comfortable just staying home. They clean and decorate and make sure things are well ordered. Maybe they watch sports or news on TV, or like to read, or do jigsaw puzzles. After all, isn't this what retirement is all about -- relaxing and enjoying life without the pressures of making a living or trying to impress other people?

    6. The Gardener. We have one friend who studied to be a master gardener in retirement, and she now works part-time at a flower shop. She had an exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The show ended on Sunday, and by Wednesday she was spending the day viewing the flowers at nearby Longwood Gardens. Needless to say, she has a beautiful gardens in her backyard. Then there's my brother-in-law. No flowers for him. He raises an acre's worth of vegetables. We like to visit our family Gardener in August when the corn and tomatoes come in.

     7. The Professional. Some people retire -- and then go right back to work. The very idea of sitting around the house, or looking for things to keep them busy, drives them up the wall. They liked what they were doing when they were working, and so they keep going as a consultant, a freelancer, or with another firm. My doctor was forced to retire from his medical group at age 70. But it wasn't a week before he had set up his practice with another doctor the next town over. My own Uncle Tom somehow managed to keep going to his office, at least a couple of days a week, until they finally kicked him out at age 90. We joked that he was just afraid to stay home with his fierce and sometimes-dominating wife.

     8. The Financial Guru. I know a few guys -- they're mostly guys -- who spend a good portion of their day, every day, following the ups and downs of the stock market. They watch CNBC, follow Yahoo Finance, subscribe to The Wall Street Journal and Investor's Business Daily. They guys aren't necessarily rich. But they like the action, feeling that they're keyed into something important.

     9. The Culture Vulture. These retirees go to museums, belong to the arthouse cinema, travel to the city to see the theater and the galleries. They're members of PBS. Maybe they belong to a local writers' group or photography club. Whatever. This is what makes their lives interesting.

     Of course, few of us fit into just one category. I myself dabble in several of these types -- a little bit of the sportsman, a little volunteer . . . and I try to be a culture vulture, but I know I fall short. And then, I tried to come up with ten retirement types. But I only got nine. What did I miss?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

P as in Phoenix

     We are vaccinated and masked and traveling again. Are you?

     We spent two weeks in South Carolina at the end of April. Last week we flew to Phoenix for a family get-together. We have plans to go to Wisconsin later in the summer. Why? Because we have family in South Carolina, Phoenix and Wisconsin.

     Masks are required in airline terminals and on airplanes. And they're serious about it. I had to keep a mask on for over seven hours each way. I thought that might be a problem. But it really wasn't. I got used to it.

     In Phoenix these days many people have dispensed with masks, especially when they're outside -- or in restaurants. We went to two museums. At the indoor Musical Instrument Museum, a little more than half of the people wore masks. At the outdoor Pioneer Living village, hardly anyone wore a mask.

The view from our condo

     Whenever I think of Phoenix I recall the Nichols and May telephone skit where May is confirming the spelling of the name Kaplan: "K as in knight," she says. "A as in aardvark. P as in pneumonia . . ."

     I guess I understand why Phoenix is pronounced with an F. So is Philadelphia. But there are a lot of things I don't understand about the Sunbelt. The first of them is: why does everyone move here?

Local fauna includes the pig-like Javelina

     The Phoenix area use to be cheap, uncrowded and not quite as hot as it is today. But now Phoenix has gotten expensive. Six of us went to dinner at a restaurant in a strip mall. It was a nice enough restaurant, but the bill was over $400!

     The city is also mobbed. When Glen Campbell recorded "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" the population of the whole area was under a million. Now there are over 5 million people crowded into the Phoenix metro area. And that doesn't even count the tourists.

At Pioneer Village they aren't kidding about the snakes

     We were there for a week. We agreed ahead of time that we'd go swimming in our airbnb pool every day the thermometer hit 100 degrees. We went swimming every day.

     But it's only getting hotter. We saw the sun out every day, with temperatures rising to 104 or 106 degrees. Next week, according to weather.com, the temperature in Phoenix is climbing to 117 degrees. Meanwhile, although we did not see it, the Telegraph fire is burning east of Phoenix, consuming 40,000 acres and counting. 

     But I have to admit, I enjoyed swimming every day. And there's a silver lining to the heat. Our rental complex wasn't very crowded. A lot of people who live there are snowbirds, and they've fled to cooler climes for the time being. 

     Anyway, I was visiting family. They moved to Phoenix in 2002. And they love it.      

The teacher's house circa 1890

     There are a lot of things to do in Phoenix -- from the sports venues to the zoo and the botanical gardens and the art museum and an American Indian museum. 

     We spent most of our time hanging out with family. But we did make those two excursions. The first was to the Musical Instrument Museum which houses a large, well-organized and interactive collection of instruments from around the world. We saw all kinds of strange instruments, listened to lots of different music, and even caught a live bluegrass show.

The sheriff's office included a jail

     We also spent a morning at the nearby Pioneer Living History Museum, located in an area that was once a ranch, a few miles north of the city.

     Some of the buildings are re-creations; others are original buildings that were moved there when the museum opened in 1969. Either way, they were all sitting in the desert, baking under a remorseless sun.

Peek inside a fancy dress shop

     Now we're back home, outside of Philadelphia. It's raining. It's 58 degrees. There's no swimming pool, just a lawn that needs mowing. Maybe I do know why people move to the Sunbelt!

Phoenix today, at the corner of . . . well, any corner

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Resources for Retirement

     Over the years I have collected a number of links to websites that offer information, inspiration, research and entertainment geared to people over age 60. You'll find this list of Retirement Resources down on the right hand side of the blog, below More Grownup Voices.

     I've found these sites to be helpful and informative, and so I encourage you to check them out. Explore the sites. Look for ideas and issues that are relevant to your life.

   For example, travelers can climb aboard Roads Scholar or National Geographic. Lifelong learners can attend the Osher foundation site.  People looking for post-retirement work can apply at Encore or Second Act. Volunteers can find opportunities at Volunteer Match.

     I also have some of the standard sites for seniors, such as the AARP site, and two links to the New York Times. One is for The New Old Age, a page that has been suspended but still offers archived material. Newer articles about retirement have been folded into New York Times -- Health. (Note, however, that the Times limits your number of free visits per month unless you have a subscription.)

     I recently added Aging Parents Insights which covers topics like Alzheimer's, aging alone, caregiving and end-of-life issues. On the lighter side, there's a link to Manopause, for "men over 50 and the people who love them," which features videos, interviews, humor . . . and at least one Pulitzer-Prize winner.

     For those who are academically inclined, I've posted a number of links to universities sponsoring retirement research. They cover issues like health, finance, relationships and other concerns of the older population. So take a look. There are links to the well-known Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, as well as research centers at Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Utah.

     I've done a post on this list before. But for those who are new to this blog, or those who didn't pay a whole lot of attention (let's face it, most of us don't), I hope you'll scroll down on the right and take advantage of this trove of information available to us, all for free.

     Meanwhile, if you've run across any other useful, reliable websites that will enrich our retirement lives, I hope you'll share them with us. May we all have a happy and healthy post-Covid retirement!