Monday, April 23, 2012

AARP: Not The Same Old Thing?

(From Sunday's Times and News-Star)

I am a half-century old. If my money math is correct, I can retire, somewhat comfortably, when I am 107.


By “somewhat comfortably,” I mean I’ll have to work only half-days by then.

Or teach myself how to get by without a few things. Like food.

(Air’s still free, right? Except at the gas station? Where is the gas station importing this air from that costs money?)

But that’s OK because I recently bit the prune and joined the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP. I have the $16 cancelled check and a membership card to prove it.

It would seem odd that a man would join a retired persons organization when that man plans to keep working for a while. But that is one of the beautiful things about AARP, besides our red, white and gray team colors and the fact that our shuffleboard squad is undefeated this season -- you do not even have to be retired to join! Do you hear what I am saying, you AARP members out there with hearing aids turned up to “Say WHAT?” You don’t even have to be retired!

The AARP has been recruiting me with a vengeance for several years now. They’ve wanted me. Badly. It’s a good though unfamiliar feeling.

First they sent random mail. “We’re keeping up with you. Good luck this year.” That sort of thing.

Then there were phone calls, first from AARP marketers, then from some of the higher-ups. I remember a particularly poignant call from one of the vice presidents on my 50th birthday. “Boy, you really are getting UP there!”

At first it was bothersome. But dogged sincerity won me over. A couple of guys in suits came to recruit me, to see how long it took me unravel myself and stand up straight on my way to the bathroom on any of the six trips I make there a night. They saw me take naps on Sunday afternoon, fall asleep in a drive-thru line, have trouble lifting things, like myself.

With each limp, I impressed. You can’t coach this stuff, really. A lot of it is just natural aging ability.

Finally there was the free swag, probably illegal, like my canvas “travel bag” that has “AARP” on the side and a pocket for cell phone, loose change, wallet, passport, contact information for my primary physician and next of kin, dentures and Depends.

They beat me down, is what I’m saying. Made me an offer I was getting tired of refusing.

So last week, I made the call. “I’ve decided,” I said to the toll-free operator, “to take my talents to AARP.”

Somewhere, a dog barked.

So, I am in, at least until “Feb 2013,” as my official membership card reads. And so far, I like it. My card scans for discounts at restaurants and movies and the drugstore, and the association sends me a monthly magazine called “Geezer Illustrated.” (I’m joking! We old folk, we like to joke, we do.) It’s called “AARP The Magazine” and Harrison Ford (Indy Jones!) was on a recent cover that included stories like “Live Your Motorcycle Fantasy!” and “Your Doctor Is Stumped: Now What?”

Not bad for 16 bucks. Plus, online I’m kept informed on money matters and retirement issues, freeing me up for things I want to do in my never-able-to-retire state.

Anybody up for a game of shuffleboard? Or Stump the Doctor?