You know you're old when...

by Terry Hogan

No this isn't going to be another top 10 list. Well, maybe. I can probably come up with more than ten, particularly if it is a bad day. But I won't know until I'm done writing. The inspiration for this article came while eating breakfast at a Steak 'n Shake in Indianapolis. I looked down on the place mat, and there was a 1952 photo of the Galesburg Steak 'n Shake, located on East Main Street. Immediately, I recalled hundreds of round trips down Main Street, with the loops ending at ''The Square'' on the west end and the Steak 'n Shake on the east end. Many trips were made on Friday nights, seeing and being seen. It was 1963-64 and a little like TV's ''Happy Days.''

I looked closely at the picture and recognized what I believed to be the right rear fender of a 1953 Studebaker. I wasn't sure, and I am still not sure, but it was odd as the photo was attributed to 1952. This drove the point home. I know that much about the cars of the 1950s, but can't recognize the year and model of any contemporary cars in the current Steak 'n Shake, excluding my own of course.

That's #1. You can spot a 55 Chevy from a quarter mile away but you can't tell a 2001 Oldsmobile from any of the herds of Japanese cars.

The second is that you begin to gravitate, despite your best efforts, to the ''oldies but goodies'' radio stations. Worse, you can sing along with such tunes as ''Little Deuce Coup,'' ''Teen Angel'' and ''Purple People Eater,'' while having flashbacks of vivid memories.

The third is that you begin to wonder about your high school classmates. You begin to think, ''Well maybe attending a class reunion might not be so bad nowŠ we're all too old to be trying to impress each other now. We're just doing good to be remembering who we are.''

The fourth is to buy a Miata convertible and/or a '55 Chevy so that you can be identified a quarter mile away.

The fifth is having recurring thoughts of ''What ifs?'' Such as, ''What if I'd stuck it out through biochemistry and then gone to Vet School at the University of Illinois?''

The sixth, I can take no personal credit for. I am, after all, a happily married man and a grandfather, so I must attribute this one to one of my favorite authors, Charles Kuralt. He recalls in a chapter entitled ''Regrets'' about a declined opportunity to sleep with a young lady much his junior, while he was middle aged. At the end of the story, Charles relates a statement made to him by an older man when Charles was just starting out his professional reporting career: ''When you get to be my age, sonny, all you ever think about are the women you could have gone to bed with and didn't.'' Charles added ''I laughed then.''*

The seventh, I thought was only my own as I had never heard it uttered by any one else, until recently. My wife and I were having dinner with friends. He, about my age, is very successful by any yardstick -- multimillionaire, Ivy League graduate, partner in a very successful law firm, very bright, and perhaps most importantly, does not take himself too seriously. Over dinner, we were talking about the problems of getting older, and he observed, ''What I find troublesome, is that young, pretty women don't see me.''

The eighth, is the bathroom drawer that is becoming cluttered with prescription drugs, while the echo of your own voice can still be heard ''By God, when I get old, I'm not gonna be taking pills by the handful.'' I think I'd better stop here. If I did a ''Top Ten List,'' I'd probably get sued by someone for alleged copyright infringement. I'd have to plead something to do with old age and bad memory, diminished something or another. But I can't recall what it is.

This article is a little shorter than most of them, but well, I gotta go. Think I'll head to the big city and see if I can find a good, used, low-mileage, black Miata that has a tape deck or CD player. Suppose I can get ''Teen Angel'' on CD?

*Charles Kuralt. 1990. A Life on the Road. G. P. Putnam's Sons. New York. 253 pages.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 11, 2001

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