Are you a social boomer?

As further proof that I am a real boomer, I admit that I don’t have much use for most social media.  Not that all boomers are like that, because I know a good number of my fellow boomers who seem to use and love all kinds of social media on a regular basis.  But I’d guess that I am in good company with those who don’t value social media as much as those much younger than us.

First of all, let me say that I actually know a few things about social media, so I’m not just some old guy who is completely ignorant of technology.

I remember a good number of years ago when I worked for a large manufacturing company in an administrative position — I would be sitting there in my fine cubicle minding the business of my job and the founder of the company would come wandering by, which he did from time to time.  He was in his 80s then, and you recall that years ago personal computers, e-mail and social media were nothing like they are today.  I had a PC at home at the time, but at work I used a mainframe workstation, and e-mail was nothing more than a cumbersome programming tool that only a few used.  Social media was still in the womb.

This 80-something founder would stop at various peoples’ desks to chat and see what was going on, and since I was always staring at my computer monitor, he’d usually make a comment to me that he had never used a computer and never would.  For him, it was a badge of honor to not get caught up in all that useless computer stuff.  Likewise other management people that I knew then – most never used a computer themselves.  They let the tech nerds or their assistants do all that.

So just because I don’t value social media all that much, it doesn’t mean that I am clueless about it like that 80-something guy was about computers.  I know very well that there are good uses for social media.  The big difference for me is that I use social media where there is a practical need or application; I don’t use it for entertainment.

This is the big departure for me, and perhaps for many boomers.  Younger folks, like Millennials, can’t live without social media.  They go out to lunch or dinner and take pictures of their food when it is placed in front of them and immediately post the pictures online, and within minutes they have comments on the post from their friends.  They learn about each other and tell and show everything about themselves via social media.  They find the essence of life in social media.

A month or so ago, my youngest daughter was sitting with us in our family room one Sunday afternoon doing homework on her laptop.  Apparently my wife and I fell asleep in our chairs for a while (never happened before).  The following week, I was in church and talking with a younger friend of mine, and he joked how funny the video was of us sleeping.  Yes, my dear daughter took a video of us and posted it for her hundreds (thousands?) of friends to view.  My wife and I became temporarily famous, thanks to social media.  I would never think to post a video like that.  (We’re still friends with this child, by the way.)

I work with a younger guy in his early 30s who posts a tweet on Twitter every single day.  He does not need to do that for his work, but he does it faithfully, I guess for fun.  He says he has some 600 followers who receive his missives.  What the heck does he tell these hundreds of people?  And why on earth do these hundreds of people want to read about him every single day?  And most of these adoring fans probably read about a bunch of other people who are tweeting their life out to the world.  Do younger people spend all day just reading all the hundreds of tweets coming at them?

I don’t even want to know what my own kids are doing or thinking every day.  So why would I want to know what my work colleagues are up to every single day?  And I sure don’t want to tell hundreds of strangers what I’m doing on a daily basis.

And then there’s Facebook.  It fills a need and it can be very entertaining to keep up with friends and family.  I don’t discount its personal and business uses.  But daily?  Really?  I haven’t touched my own personal Facebook page in well over a year.  And despite that, my life is fulfilling and meaningful.

Now, the one social media platform that I do like is Linkedin.  I use it for business to identify contacts, make contact and see what people do and how they fit in to their companies.  It’s actually useful so I look at it pretty much every day.  So far it has remained mostly “pure” as a business tool without a lot of personal fluff.  Still, there are people who get mixed up and seem to think Linkedin is Facebook — they post family pictures or they overdo it on the personal stuff.

One guy I’m connected to likes to change his Linkedin profile picture every other week or so, as if we all want to see what he does in his free time.  He has posted profile pictures of his family on a beach, him standing next to his car, him running over the finish line of a marathon, and he even posted a picture of himself in hunting clothes holding a rifle, next to a dead animal.  Apparently he thought the Linkedin community would want to see him as some great hunter.  Please, save that for an audience that actually cares about your personal life.

Another annoying trend on Linkedin is people who post puzzles, slogans, inspiring pictures, or cutesy things that are great for Facebook, not so great for a business audience.  Again, save that for some other social media platform and don’t clutter up my information feed with your hobbies and personal stuff.

Finally, there are those folks on Linkedin who post articles and their personal likes not once a day, not twice a day, but multiple times a day.  They must spend the day finding stuff they think is interesting and then throwing it at us all.  Where do they have time for that?  I don’t want to see your likes and interests every time I look at Linkedin!

Am I being cranky here?  I guess I just want to make my limited use of social media as efficient as possible.  If I wanted to kill time looking at the family life or personal interests of others, I’d use Facebook or Instagram or a dozen other platforms that cater to the social needs of strangers.

I say:  Keep it where it needs to be.

Maybe I am a little bit like that company founder who liked to say that he had no use for computers.  He didn’t see the need. That’s the thing — I love technology and new stuff, but only if I can really use it.

Do I need a physician or an inventor?

It’s time for my monthly post to this fine blog called Boomercrush.  I never intended to publish just once a month, but that’s how it has turned out so far this year.  Goes to show you that I should have set a goal to post multiple times a week, and then I surely would have done so.  Because, I meet all my goals, of course.  And I exercise regularly, eat sensibly, always floss after meals, and never tell a fib.  Whatever.  Maybe I’m subconsciously grooming myself to run for president.  (Lying:  get it?)

So I will from this day forward try to write and publish my blog posts more frequently.  I won’t say yet how frequently because I need to figure that out.  But I can’t and shouldn’t keep my adoring public waiting so long between my inspiring thoughts.  Check back again soon, dear reader.

My post today is an easy one because I went to the doctor yesterday for an annual physical, and interacting with doctors always gives me material to write about.  Now, I like doctors and know a few personally, and they are fine people doing fine work.  But for some reason I haven’t had very meaningful experiences visiting doctors as of late.

I need to mention one exception:  My gastroenterologist saves my life regularly by finding and removing polyps from within my colon.  I have a tendency to manufacture those little fellers on a consistent basis, so I literally owe my life to my gastroenterologist.  I like that doctor a lot.  Get a colonoscopy when you should, folks, and stay alive.

I posted earlier this year that I had gone to a couple of doctors to ask about my tinnitus.  I spent a bunch of money and time going through tests and having conversations with the white-coat clan, all for no answers, no suggestions and no relief.  My tinnitus has not gone away or changed — rather, I’m learning to live with it a little better and with less desperation.

But I try to keep myself generally healthy in my boomer years by seeing the doctor regularly.  So far, other than the tinnitus and random polyps, I’ve been pretty healthy.

This year I tried out a new internal medicine doctor for my physical, since my last primary-care physician retired a couple of years ago.  I heard about a female internal medicine physician who gets rave reviews for caring and all that, so I thought I’d give that a try.  And why not — women go to men doctors, so why not men to women doctors?  Maybe the extra sensitivity of a female doctor will win me over again to the medical profession.

Well, the first red flag was when the receptionist at the front desk asked me if it was a full physical, which it was, and then asked me if I wanted a prostate exam.  Do I want a prostate exam?  “Want?”  In my mind I’m thinking that, no, I do not want a prostate exam even if it’s my wife doing it.  But if I’m here for a “full” physical and a middle-aged guy in his fifties often has prostate issues, then I guess I “should” have a prostate exam.  Maybe the female internal medicine doctor doesn’t like dealing with those pesky internal things on men, so she has them ask that at the desk.

I will now tell you that the prostate exam went just fine.  Felt like it should from my perspective and apparently mine is A-okay.  But during the course of this full physical, this nice doctor basically did only four things:  Looked in my ears, felt around my neck, took my blood pressure, and finally checked my prostate (because I wanted her to).  I was tempted to tell her that my prostate wasn’t in my neck, ha ha, but she probably wouldn’t have found that to be funny…  There was nothing else to my exam.  Not that I wanted a whole bunch of invasive things to be done to me, but whatever happened to the days when a doctor would palpate your stomach (if I’m using that word correctly), or check for hernias with the little finger (“turn your head and cough”), or look in your eyes and into your throat, or check your knee and foot reflexes?

Has the medical profession evolved so that they don’t check anything any more, even during a so-called full physical?  Or was my doctor just a little shy?  If so, why was she shy — she’s a doctor for crying out loud.  Back in the good old days when I was younger, my doctor used to ask me all kinds of stuff.  Not this time — this internal medicine doctor didn’t ask me anything at all.  Maybe she was so smart she could just look at me and know how healthy I was.

So I’m starting to wonder if I really need to see a doctor anymore if I’m feeling okay, other than my colon doctor of course.  Or maybe an annual physical should just be a questionnaire that you fill out and unless you check off some problem, you don’t need to be seen.  As for the prostate exam, well, someone should invent some kind of chair device that you just sit on and the results are tabulated and added to your record.  If there’s a problem, step over here, otherwise goodbye and have a nice day.

Maybe I’m just expecting too much.  I pay so dang much for my lousy health insurance and get nothing from it, so I want those health care folks to really work me over so I get my money’s worth.  That’s the cheap boomer in me, always wanting to justify every expense.  I’ve spent a lifetime looking for deals and results from people who charge me for service, so why should a doctor visit be any different?

Anyway, I sure hope some smart person will read this post and be inspired to do some inventing — I’m talking about the prostate chair device.  It’s a good idea, isn’t it?  Something all us boomer men could use for sure.


Desire, not ability, is what limits us

A couple of weeks ago a father-son team won the grand prize of a million bucks on the television show “Amazing Race.”  Or I should say they won six months ago when the event actually took place, but the final program aired just a couple of weeks ago when the results and winners were revealed.  The winners were Dave and Connor O’Leary of Salt Lake City, and congratulations to them.

I must admit that I haven’t seen more than 10 minutes of that show in all the years it’s been on TV.  I think I tuned in sometime in the first or second season and haven’t watched since.  Not that it isn’t a good program, just that I don’t watch a lot of TV.  I know lots of people watch and enjoy it, which of course is why the program is still on the air.  I probably should watch it too because the one thing I enjoy most in life is travel, especially to foreign places, and this show has plenty of that.

But I’m not writing this post to comment on the show.  In fact I wouldn’t even know about the winners on this season’s show if it weren’t for a news report a couple of days ago that highlighted the fact that the father, Dave, is 59 years old.  And from the news blurb about the win, this 59-year old guy Dave is the oldest contestant to ever win, or maybe even to compete and complete the race, if I heard correctly.  The news report went on to emphasize how AMAZING it was that this super-old 59-year old guy Dave could actually compete and actually win!!!  That’s three exclamation points, folks.

So what’s my angle here?  It’s that the news report made such a big deal about a 59-year old being capable of more than sitting in a rocking chair or shuffling across the kitchen floor.  This ticks me off.  As if a 50-something person, or a 60-something person, is ready for the scrap heap just because of his or her age.

Either the news folks are all 20-somethings and are completely clueless about the mobility and health of most late 50-somethings, or the news folks have broken and feeble parents in their late 50s and therefore they think all 50-somethings are broken and feeble, or there’s some stinky age bias going around that news room.

So what’s the deal — you get to middle age and you can’t run any more?  Is that what people think?  Sure, there are those who haven’t aged very well through hard living, illness, lack of fitness, or a variety of maladies that can catch up to you.  But I think most guys my age and into their 60s are pretty robust and able to do just about anything they want.

And I think that is the key:  what they “want” to do.  I think a lot of younger people confuse “ability” with “desire” and come to the wrong conclusion about my generation of boomers.

Let me explain.  When I was younger, I wanted to do a lot of stupid things, like drive excessively fast, climb steep and dangerous trails, eat myself sick, stay up all night, play sports all the time, wear only shorts and a t-shirt outside in the winter when it’s below freezing, ski down super-steep slopes, sleep in the car to save money on a trip instead of checking into a hotel, work too many hours, go jogging, and stuff like that.  Now?  I don’t want to do many of those things because my experience has taught me that they aren’t that fun after all and sometimes are just not worth it.

So because we older folks are more selective in the activities we choose to participate in, we’re categorized as incapable in comparison to people a generation or two younger than us.  But I’m here to tell you it’s not because we can’t do things, it’s because we DON’T WANT TO.  We’ve been around a while and we’ve done all the stupid things already, and now we have moved on.

So for this 59-year old fellow who competed and won the race, good for him.  It’s no surprise to me.  Of course he was able to do it because he wanted to, and he’s not dead yet.  Do you get that, dear readers?  It’s only over when you die.

I hope someday society will figure out that middle-aged and older people aren’t all done with living just yet.  We may have a few more health issues, but they do not limit us.  It’s all a matter of what we want to do and where we want to put out the effort.  Lack of desire is not the same thing as lack of ability.  We can compete with anyone — if we want to.

Glamping anyone?

I read a news article just this week on a new trend in America and elsewhere called “glamping.”  Simply put, glamping is glamour camping, or luxury camping.  This news is surprising to me and raises some issues in my mind.  First, because this is “news” at all.  Second, because camping and glamour are in the same sentence.  And third, who makes up this stuff, anyway?

Okay, so let’s deal with the first issue.  How does this story rate as news?  With all the crapola going on in the world — corruption left and right, wars and rumors of war, and boomers out of work — this is a headline that gets pushed out?  This belongs in a camping or recreation magazine or website, not on the national news wire.

Now for the second issue: “luxury camping.”  Seems like two concepts that just don’t go together.  I mean, if you’re camping in the wilderness, it doesn’t matter if your tent is made of designer canvas or just plain old canvas – it’s a tent.  And that luxury price tag isn’t going to keep the bugs out or make the dirt less dirty.  A spider is a spider and dirt is dirt.

If you want to go out into the wilderness and enjoy luxury while you camp, I suggest you find a cabin.  Or, drive your motor home into the parking lot of a national park.  A tent, no matter how well equipped, is never luxurious, in my humble opinion.

I have many fond memories of old fashioned camping in my early married years right on up to now.  It has always been a fun time, especially with my kids.  It’s a back-to-nature experience that everyone needs to experience.  And camping really isn’t camping unless you sleep in a tent.  Sleeping in a motor home or a trailer or a cabin is not camping.

I remember one occasion when camping wasn’t so fun.  Years ago, I used to strain my back on a regular basis (this is where the boomer talk comes in, by the way, which qualifies this post to be in this blog).  I was in my early forties and I thought I could work like I used to as a young man, hauling heavy loads, digging holes for trees and fence posts, climbing on the roof of my house to do shingle things, and all kinds of other manly and strenuous things that twenty-somethings can do any day and any time.  And if a neighbor needed help moving, I was there to help carry fridges and pool tables up and down stairs.

Only I wasn’t that young any more and not in that great of shape.  So I would regularly do too much and regularly ended up paying the price by pulling the same muscles in my lower back.  I would end up with spasms that bent me over for days and then eventually, my muscles would loosen up and I’d return to normal.

So on this one occasion, our church group was having a campout in the mountains with all our families invited.  It was a great event with lots of kids and adults having a good time in the wilderness.  We ate, played games, built a big fire, and slept in tents.  Only, I had strained my back again just prior to heading into the hills and I could barely move throughout the entire campout.  You know how uncomfortable it is to sleep on the hard ground in your sleeping bag even with a pad, so just imagine how tough it was trying to sleep when every movement hurt.  Truly, one of the longest nights of my life.  You hear every sound, see every shadow and feel every pebble while you lie in that tent and count the minutes for the dawn to finally arrive.  The worst camping experience I’ve had.

But even when you’re healthy and strong, camping is not easy.  You are always dealing with dirt, during the camping experience and long after.  You have a lot of work to do to set everything up, keep warm, eat, get some rest, and break it all down.  Camping is fun, but it is hardly a luxurious experience.

I guess someone has figured out a way to glamorize camping, either with unique tent configurations (which I’d like to see) or so much fabulous food that you don’t care that you’re also sleeping in a tent.  Or maybe it’s all about the designer clothes you wear into the hills or the expensive SUV that you drive.

My guess is that glamping was probably invented in California, where all trends start.

Whatever the definition, get out into the woods and do some camping this summer, or put your designer jeans on and do some glamping if you prefer.  Life is short — get out and enjoy it.

Respect defrocked

My wife and I went to a wedding reception this week for good friend’s son.  It was a nice affair with all the expected features – food, decorations, music, tables, and people dressed up.  Except pretty much the only people dressed up were those in the wedding party and a few random old guys, and my wife and me.  Most of the invited guests looked mighty casual for a formal wedding reception (the marriage was earlier in the day).

I always thought a wedding reception was a “nice” event that you get dressed up for, kind of like you get dressed up for church or that kind of thing.  You know, you wear your best clothes out of respect for the event (or meeting) you’re attending.  Seems like a well-established custom that has been around for generations.  And I’m not talking about a full suit, but how about some decent long pants and a good shirt and maybe a tie for the men, and a dress or skirt for the women?

Granted, if you get married high in the mountains or jumping out of an airplane, you can expect a different dress code for the event.  But most “regular” wedding receptions in a rented reception hall are dress-up deals, right?

I am continually surprised by what people wear to a reception.  It’s not that I am some kind of authority on receptions and society trends.  But my wife and I get invited to a good number of receptions every year, and it seems more and more common for younger-type people to show up looking like slobs.  You see it all the time:  There’s the groom in a tux and the family dressed up in matching outfits, and there’s the slob guest shaking hands to say hello.  Couldn’t take a few minutes to change before showing up.  At the reception we attended this week, one of the guys in front of us was sporting a pair of old shorts and a t-shirt, as if he just barely let go of the lawn mower handles before heading into the reception hall.

It’s not like these people just happened to be driving by and popped in to the reception on a whim to see what’s going on.  They were invited and made plans in advance to attend.

I need to say that it’s not just young people who are dressing inappropriately for nice events.  There are enough boomer types too who show up in jeans and any variety of casual clothes.  I guess these casual folks apparently are so busy they can’t take a few minutes to change into better clothes.  Or, they don’t have a clue how to dress respectfully.  Or more likely, they don’t care.

I think it’s a matter of respect.  Respect for the married couple and the family who put on the event.  Respect for tradition.  Respect for the institution of marriage that for many people is still a big deal.

Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer to be casual.  I can (and mostly do) live in jeans every single day.  I do not really care to wear a suit or tie, they are hot and uncomfortable.  I used to work at a company where guys put on their suitcoats to go to the cafeteria, and I thought that was unnecessary.  But I think there are still places and events where there should be respect, both in our demeanor and our appearance.

Unless, that is, respect is nothing more than just a quaint notion of the past.

Phone relics

I’m a boomer and proud of it, which means I view the world a little differently than people a couple of decades younger than me.

Take my house phone, for instance.  That is to say, I have a house phone.  Yes, I actually still have a hard-wired phone in my house, with service delivered and billed by the phone company.  That alone makes me very different from younger people.  Younger people have cell phones and that’s it.  My daughter just got through building a nice new house with her husband and they didn’t even wire the house for a phone.  That house will never have a desk or wall phone, unless of course a boomer moves in some day and has the place wired and jacks installed.

In my house, which I had built about a dozen years ago, every single room has a phone jack in the wall, and there’s even a jack in the garage.  In fact, I specified that each jack would be wired to accommodate two phone lines so my family members could have “plenty” of phone access.

For the first couple of years here, we had two-line phones in all the bedrooms, in the office, and of course in the kitchen.  It was like a business — if someone was on line 1, well then, you just pushed line 2 and had yourself a conversation.  Worked great until my kids started getting older, and by the time they were teenagers they stopped using the home phone forever.  Their friends called them directly on their cell phones, completely bypassing my fatherly authority to screen calls and know everything going on under my roof.

Now, it’s positively unthinkable for someone under 30 to even consider using a “home phone.”  Ha! they say, who needs it?  Actually, as I look at the $45 bill for maybe 10 calls on the house phone all month, I’m beginning to wonder if I need it.  Why am I paying something like $500 a year for this antique on my desk, anyway?  I use my cell phone all the time, despite my advancing age.

Remember the phones we had when we were growing up?  In my early childhood, we actually rented the phone equipment to use in our house, along with the dial tone.  A nice dial wall phone in the kitchen served the whole family.  I remember my father sometimes conducting business on the kitchen wall phone, standing there talking away with the family all around.  If you were really prosperous, you also had a dial desk phone or Princess phone elsewhere in the house.  Now that was snobbish high living.

Then enlightenment dawned and we could buy our own phone and just pay for the dial tone, and the phones had buttons!  All kinds of great styles of phones came out, from cartoon characters to old-fashioned phones to sleek flip phones, and of course cordless phones, but all with the requisite cord to plug into the wall jack to get dial tone service.

Someday, the mighty phone company won’t be so mighty any more when they don’t have any residential customers.  Only businesses will use corded dial tone service.  And that is changing fast, too, with VoIP phones becoming much more common – phones that use the Internet to carry the signal rather than traditional phone switching.

The same kind of revolution is happening with cell phones, starting with the famous Motorola brick.  I never had one because it cost about $2,000 or so.  Only real estate agents — successful real estate agents — had one.  Big time snob fodder.

Remember the first analog cell phone you actually owned?  It would fade in and out depending on how close you were to the edge of your home calling range.  Battery life of about five minutes and no caller ID.  I also remember rich folks with a cell phone installed in their car, built right in, with a neat little curly antenna on the back window.  It was a status symbol to have a phone antenna on your car, and if you were really lame you could even buy a fake antenna to stick on your back window.  Instant snobbery, although it always looked dumb when I saw an old rusty Datsun sedan go by with a cell phone antenna on the back window.  Didn’t fool me.

So then digital phones swept in, and they got smaller and smaller and smaller.  You could carry them in a tiny little pouch on your belt!  Then, smartphones.  Now smartphones are getting bigger and bigger, as if to reverse all that miniaturization from the past.

Speaking of snobbery… Have you ever noticed when an Apple phone owner refers to his phone, he always calls it by the brand?  You never hear an Android phone user do that.  Like, the Apple snob always says he can’t find his “iPhone” or he’ll look it up on his “iPhone” or here, use my “iPhone…”    Why not just call it a phone?  Do you ever hear someone say they can’t find their Galaxy?  No??  Funny how snobbishness and phones have been going so well together for so long.

So that’s the end of my phone rant for today.  I can only guess that a younger person would have written all this on a smartphone (yeah, or an iPhone), not using an old-fashioned PC like I do.  Younger people do everything on their phone, which is why they are constantly looking at them.

Can you imagine how our kids would suffer now if they only had a dial wall phone to communicate with the world?

Newfangled cars

Okay, I really don’t know what “newfangled” means, but it sounds like something an old-timer would say.  So that’s why I’m saying it — I feel like an old-timer when it comes to cars these days.  But I’m not one of those slow-slow drivers who wears an old-fashioned hat while putt-putt-putt-ing down the road.  You’ve seen ‘em, like they’re right out of the 30s barely moving in their old Buicks.  No, I’m not that old fashioned…  yet.

I still drive as fast as I ever did, and of course I drive much better than I ever used to, too.  But I’m amazed at what has happened to technology in new cars.  Keep in mind that my wife and I drive old cars, each more than 15 years old.  One of my cars, a fine old Honda from the 90s, has a quarter-million miles on it and it’s still running strong.  My kids don’t think I should be proud of that, but I kind of am.  It’s an accomplishment to keep a car running all that long time.

My daughter has a newer car, from a year that starts with a “2.”  For me, it’s like brand new.  One of the headlights has gone out, so I want to replace it for her.  It’s one of those super-bright bulbs that fits in a slot behind the headlight lens, so you have to access it from the engine compartment.  It is incredibly difficult to get to without having to take out either the battery on one side, or the air filter housing on the other side, just to get to the bulb.  And that’s not all — you still have to figure out how to remove the cover from the back of the housing so you can pull out the old bulb and stick in the new.  Oh, and if you happen to touch the new halogen bulb with your bare fingers, you’ll cause it to burn out way early from the oils you leave on the bulb.

I remember the good old days when you changed a headlight by standing in front of the car, removing the trim ring, and just pulling the whole dang sealed beam headlight off the grill and installing a new one in its place.  One big chunk of glass.  Outside the car with the hood closed.  Piece of cake.

But now?  I have to go watch a YouTube video for instructions on how to get to the inside of the headlight lens under the hood.  If I’m lucky, I won’t destroy anything in the process.

This whole newfangled car thing really came home to me a few weeks ago.  My wife and I decided to take a 3-day trip over the President’s Day holiday weekend.  We drove to a resort-like community some 300 miles away, and since we have ancient cars, we decided to rent a car so we wouldn’t have to worry about our old car croaking on us far away from home.

If you think I’m just being paranoid about our old cars, you’re right.  But there’s some history here.  Last fall, my wife and I had the good fortune to have the use of a condo for a weekend just north of Jackson, Wyoming, hundreds of miles away from our home.  We were meeting up with other family members who drove in from another state.  We drove our old Honda and arrived that Friday evening just in time for a late dinner and bedtime.  In the morning, we decided to head out for breakfast and a drive up to Yellowstone.  As soon as we turned onto the road going north, the Honda started sputtering.  Amazingly and fortunately, my first thought was that it might be the fuel pump, which I couldn’t remember having ever replaced in over 200,000 miles.  So instead of lurching north toward Yellowstone, I flipped a u-turn and we limped into the town of Jackson, barely making it to the first mechanic place I saw.

My heartfelt gratitude for finding a repair shop and actually making it there quickly faded when I learned that the usual (and only) mechanic at this place was not on duty on Saturday or Sunday.  And I also learned from the friendly guy behind the counter that the most mechanical service I could get anywhere in town or in the whole region on a weekend was an oil change or flat tire repair, or I could wait until Monday when the total of two or three mechanics in the whole region showed up for work.  I had to be back at work on Monday so that wasn’t going to fly, and the repair cost would probably be three times higher than it would be at home.  My next option was to see if I could tow this old Honda back home.  I found out that there were no rental trailers anywhere in the whole region (catch a theme here?), and towing the car home would cost the entire round trip for the tow truck, all charged by the mile.  That would have cost about the entire value of the car.

Do not let your car break down in Jackson, Wyoming, especially on a weekend.

Luckily, I have a very good and charitable friend at home who has a stout pickup truck, and within minutes of me calling him for advice, he had rounded up a car trailer and told me he’d drive me back to Jackson the next day with his rig, pick up my broken Honda, and drive everything back home.  All I needed was to first get myself and my wife home without the Honda.

Enter our relatives who had also gone to Jackson for the weekend — they drove us home completely out of their way.  And the next day, my good and charitable friend got up early and spent the whole Sunday with me retrieving my dead Honda in one big round trip journey.  All I had to pay for was his gas and lunch.

Geez, do I ever owe him.  And my relatives who drove us home.  And it was indeed the fuel pump.

Anyway, that is why we rented a car for this most recent trip.  I completed the rental paperwork and jumped in for the drive home to pack up.  Within the first mile, I realized I had no idea how to work most of the stuff on the dashboard.  My first task was to find the trip odometer so I could reset it to keep track of our total miles traveled.  Could not find it.  Instead I found a computer mouse thing that moved a cursor through all kinds of choices that I didn’t care about.  So I’m driving along barely watching the road while twiddling with some mouse thing through a dozen or so menus on a computer screen on the dashboard.  Who needs a cell phone to drive distracted when you have the car itself to distract you?

I never did find out how to reset the trip odometer throughout the whole duration of the trip.

So what the heck has happened to cars these days?  Why do I need a sophisticated computer in a car when all I want is heat and air conditioning, a stereo with a CD player, windshield wipers, and maybe a couple of headlights?  I don’t want to point and click while driving, I just want a couple of simple knobs that click a little bit when I grab on and turn them.  I don’t even want cruise control; I never use it.  In my old-fashioned opinion, there are way too many features and things in new cars.  Who needs all that?

…Boy, am I sounding old.  I guess I should start shopping for a hat.