I'm Not Dead ... Yet

Being old is nothing to be ashamed of — except when you're not

Don't call me "Pops."

As a baby boomer who has all of his hair and an impressive number of original teeth, I still think of myself as pretty young. So it was probably just a joke when the checkout girl at CVS called me “Pops.”

Lately, though, I’ve been getting a disturbing number of solicitations aimed solely at seniors. According to these ominous harbingers, I’ll soon need a medical alert necklace, a walker and catastrophic heath insurance. The only semi-optimistic thing they’ve suggested is that I’ll never have to re-use a catheter again!

Hello!? I still run a few miles every day and have had great sex during the Obama presidency. OK, so maybe I can’t remember which term, but still. What I’d really like to know is — how in the hell did I get on these old people lists in the first place? And why are they trying to hasten my death? And yes, I’ve checked: It’s not any of my old girlfriends.

Like many harassment campaigns, this one began by mail. Last month, I received an offer for — of all things — a portable oxygen tank that would allow me to “say goodbye to a life with limitations!” I stared at this cheery little missive and thought they should change their slogan to “say goodbye to a life with dating.” The whole thing was so upsetting that I slipped on an old-man cardigan, made myself a bowl of Grape-Nuts and watched a “Murder, She Wrote” marathon.

A week or so later, I got a phone call that really spooked me.

“Every 60 seconds, a senior in this country falls in his own home,” said the cheerful man on the other end of the line.

“He must be pretty banged up by now,” I joked, but this unflappable fellow said he didn’t mean the same person. He said he’d be happy to send me some literature about “falls and the elderly” and would include information about a home companion, too. I thanked him and when I hung up, I immediately took a nap.

I became obsessed with two simple questions: Was I now old? And when did this happen?

Now I have nothing against the elderly. Some of my best friends and grandparents are old. I just thought I had another 20 years or so before I joined their ranks.

I pretty much walked around in a haze for the next few days. I forgot the names of rock stars I had idolized (Charlie Something is the Stones' drummer, right?) and was overtaken by a jogger the other day — while I was driving.

I got another annoying call to buy a senior product yesterday. The guy was selling bathtubs for people with mobility issues, and that just pushed me right over the edge.

“Why would a man in his middle years need such a thing?” I yelled at him. “Goddamn it! I take showers!”

The dude on the other end was undeterred. He said it was never too early to plan for the future.

“Well, stop rushing me!” I said and then he hit me with the kicker.

“If you sign up for the tub today,” he said, “you’ll be eligible for up to $1,000 in grocery coupons.”

I paused for a moment and then told him to send me some literature. After all, a grand buys a lot of Grape-Nuts. And being old is nothing to be ashamed of.

I gave him my address and he said, “Thank you, Mr. Gerstenzang.” I told him to just call me “Pops.”