Traveling With Technology

As we, two older women, approached the United Airlines ticketing counter to check our bags and get our boarding passes, I was initially disoriented. Instead of the long lines I’m accustomed to, I saw only a handful of people, and I didn’t see any ticketing agents behind the counters. Had we come to the right place? Had I misread or failed to see the signs for ticketing as we walked from where we had dropped off our rental car?

I approached the automated kiosk and fumbled to get the piece of paper out of my purse that had the confirmation code to access my reservation. But as I did so, an airline staffer must have seen or sensed our confusion. Or maybe he was trained to spot old people who are technology-hesitant, who take too long to answer all the questions on the screen and thus slow down the whole system. He quickly pushed all the right buttons on the kiosk, efficiently wrapped our tags around the suitcases and took them to the conveyor belt, handed us the printed boarding passes and sent us on our way.

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Here’s My Opinion, Like It or Not

In my father’s old age, he became fixated on the idea that the world would be a better place if everyone drove under 55 mph. He had read someplace that, above that speed, cars weren’t as efficient and wasted gas. Whenever he started railing against fast driving, my siblings and I rolled our eyes: There goes dad again.

He was full of opinions about what was wrong with the world and how to fix it, often embarrassing his children and wife. He made a habit of telling restaurant owners the music was too loud, which made his children cringe. Funnily enough, I now find myself complaining  about the same thing, as friends and I try to talk over the cacophony. 

I guess it’s inevitable that most of us turn into our parents as we get older, very certain about what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it. I realized I’m becoming one of those opinionated old people who writes letters to the editor; goes up to cars sitting in parking lots with their engines running and lectures the driver about befouling the air; reminds people that dogs aren’t allowed on this trail; and lectures total strangers on why they should not pick flowers in a public park.

Perhaps one of the advantages of old age is that we’re not threatening; the two women picking the flowers weren’t likely to slug me or even yell at me; more likely, they went back to their cars and laughed about the crazy old lady sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.

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Good-Bye to the Old Neighborhood

When I was growing up, in the fabled ‘50s, our neighborhood was full of big families—five or more children—including ours. There must have been at least 50 children in a one-block area, so anytime I stepped outside, I was sure to see kids on the streets riding bikes or in the fields behind our houses playing catch or hide-and-seek. Not only did all the children play with each other, the parents partied together on Saturday nights in basement bars.

Although that world is long gone, I still find myself surprised at the fast pace of change. Or maybe it’s that I choose to remain oblivious until something smacks me in the head, like overhearing a comment from the realtor showing the house next door—a comment that reveals I’m older than I want to think.  

When a friend and I moved into our subdivision, some 25 years ago, we were among the younger people. On either side of us were older couples, maybe in their 60s, while we were in our late 40s. Gradually younger families started moving in, but there was still a balance between the older residents—who raised their children here and formed a community—and the new ones with young children.

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