Humor by Greg Schwem

The child sat in the grocery cart, happily eating breakfast cereal as his mother transferred items onto the belt. I stood behind them, waiting to scan my purchases: a 12-pack of Diet Coke, coffee filters and a bottle of salad dressing.

"How old is he?" I asked.

"Twenty-two months."

"Nice." I replied. "Don't believe everything you read about the 'terrible twos.' They aren't so bad."

"But he's not two. He's 22 months."

"Sure. Whatever."

Grocery mom didn't realize it but she had just risen a notch on my personal annoyance meter. She was now somewhere between idiots who press already lit elevator buttons and morons who yammer on cellphones in rest room stalls. A simple age inquiry should not require long division. Once a baby turns 1, he or she is ONE. When said baby is 22 months, the age is still one or "almost two."

The conversation ended there. She returned to the belt while I gazed at the latest Whitney Houston conspiracy theory screaming from the supermarket tabloids. The 20-whatever-month-old boy switched from Cheerios to Goldfish.

When I returned home, my wife was in the kitchen. "Did you get the lettuce?"

"The what?"

"I asked you to get a head of lettuce right before you left."

"I didn't hear 'lettuce.' I heard 'salad dressing.'"

"Well it's not surprising, "she said, half-jokingly." After all you're almost 50."

"So what?"

"So that's a half century. Turning 50 is a big deal."

Apparently so, as the subtle reminders are already trickling in. My insurance agent calls more often and sounds almost giddy as he casually tosses out phrases like "long term care insurance." Ditto for the lawyer who prepared my will. My doctor discusses uncomfortable procedures more frequently and more graphically.

I'm sorry, but I'm not in the "big deal birthday" camp. On Sept. 26, I want to awake to nothing more than a few birthday greetings from my Facebook friends. I want to avoid flying that day so a TSA official won't glance at my license, amusingly cock an eyebrow and say, "Please put your laptop in a separate bin. And by the way, happy birthday!" I don't want the entire staff at T.G.I. Friday's to break into song as they parade my fajitas to the table. Yes, I'm 50. Nothing to see here. Can't we move on?

We can, but only if I can make my age as uninteresting and complex as possible. So, as annoying as it is, I'm going to become grocery mom. When somebody asks my age, I will answer in months, not years. Want to know how long I have been on this Earth? Be prepared to have a calculator, an eraser or the latest accounting software nearby.

I've already begun testing my theory that a person's age becomes trivial when math is involved. The other day I took my 79-year-old father to breakfast at Denny's. Upon receiving the bill, I summoned the waitress.

"I think there's been a mistake, "I said and then pointed to Dad. "He should get 20 percent off because he's 948 months old."

"Excuse me?"

"Happens all the time. 'Dad, just the other day didn't somebody say you didn't look a day over 828?'"

"Yep," said my father, only too happy to be part of this experiment. "And since I quit smoking, some days I feel like a 420-month-old trapped in the body of somebody who's at least 984."

"Who knows? You might be the first one in this family to reach 1260!" I said.

"I'll get the manager," the waitress replied and scurried away.

Next, I called my dentist to schedule an appointment.

"How long has it been since your last checkup?" the receptionist asked.

"I don't know. I've slacked off a little. I think it's been about 28 months."

"Pardon me?"

"I'm sorry. Twenty-nine. But I haven't had a cavity since I was about 156."

"Why don't you just call us when something hurts?"

"Sounds good to me."

Finally I called my insurance agent.

"Hey Mike, refresh my memory. Does my term life policy expire when I turn 660 or 672?

"When you're 660," he replied instantly. "That would make you 55."

Okay, so it doesn't work on everybody. But I'm still not buying long term care insurance. Even if I live to be 1800.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

Humor & Satire

Humor & Funny Stories - Age is Nothing More Than an Intricate Equation | Humor - Greg Schwem

Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services