Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Little-Known Perk of Aging

There's a fantastic perk of aging that no one ever told me about. Let me try to explain it with two examples.

As I recently wrote....
I checked out programmable remote controls years ago, and found them to be a non-solution solution, swapping mere annoyance (too many remotes) for a confusing hobbyist mega-brick. Ugh.

I didn't realize there'd been a huge shift in how these things operate. These days, they're transparently contextual, running what computer nerds call "macros". If you haven't fooled around with one lately, you won't understand why they're so essential.
Two weeks in, I'm still gleeful. My universal remote control transmits long streams of complicated commands to multitudinous devices, arranging everything in perfect configuration at the touch of a button, like a magic trick. I'm a big fan of macros and keyboard shortcuts, and have yearned for this efficiency in my offline life. This is the first step.

The fruits of tech innovation are enjoyable for all ages, but older people can experience the extra pleasure of having longstanding aversions and assumptions pleasantly contradicted. Some part of me still expects my car to stall. That it never does offers a perennial small thrill never experienced by those who weren't driving in the 80s. Having surfed online at the dawn of the Internet, when useful content was few and far-between, it amazes me that so much (virtually everything!) is available online. It's like a dream. But if you popped into this world with an iPad in-hand, it's just not the same.

Second example:

I was chatting with my long-suffering tax accountant over Guatemalan tamales (I compensate for my hand-holding neediness with food). She told me she hates to fly out of NYC airports because of the parking hassle. I started to mention off-property parking, but she cut me off. "You mean those vans that bring you to faraway lots? I don't need that aggravation or risk."

For anyone over 50, thoughts of such arrangements conjure up memories of fly-by-night car rental offices in remote industrial parks, or air courier arrangements where you'd check someone else's packages (can't imagine this today!) in exchange for cheap flights after waiting for hours in grungy off-property boiler rooms. I'll stay in the damned airport, thank you very much. Off-property there be dragons.

But no. Now there are gleaming parking facilities where you drop off your car right in front and jump into a clean, friendly van straight to the terminal, all much easier than airport parking systems. Returning, your car's been pulled from the garage, engine running and heater engaged. Step off van, into car, and you're off, having pre-paid. It's super-cheap, mega-efficient, and every element's controlled by smart phone (this operation, near Newark, is my fave).

As I explained this, her jaw dropped. She hadn't realized airport off-site parking had evolved.

Phenomena that don't disintegrate often improve, and the ongoing surprising recognition of this is a fantastic perk of aging no one ever told me about. Why is it so little-discussed? Because almost nobody knows.

My aging parents remained typically ignorant of new tech and new solutions. Whenever they'd brush up against anything unfamiliarly current, they'd throw up their hands in helpless consternation. It's not their universe. Otra cultura. This, alas, is the normal progression of things.

Just don't do that! Never throw your hands up! Keep living in the actual universe! Remain curious and open and informed, and the world just gets better and better. Or else you can shut yourself off to all that and watch your world crumble, as favorite restaurants close, favorite bands break up, and friends all wither and die. If that's where you direct your gaze, it all looks like doom and destruction (hence MAGA, btw). If you ignore the improvements, you'll only notice the disintegration.

It can all be going to Hell...or else to Heaven. As always, it's entirely a question of perspective, and Heaven is the version more grounded in reality.


As a precocious kid, I noticed that while a nice person is delightful, a scary-looking person who turns out to be nice is a greater delight. Same here. It's far more satisfying to have a longstanding gap filled than to be born into gaplessness.

Here's the very first joke I ever learned (from "The Bozo the Clown Show"):

Q: Why are you hitting yourself in the head with a hammer?
A: Because it feels so good when I stop!


4 comments:

plam said...

Do you mean that your car never stalls because it is automatic (and there are no compelling technical reasons to drive manual)? Or something else? Yes, cars are generally a lot more reliable, but my car still stalls when there's operator error.

Jim Leff said...

They don't stall without operator error. They used to.

Dave Halpern said...

I really liked this post. Maybe because it strikes home for me - I find myself alternating between "It's all going to hell" and "How great is all of the stuff we have now". Hoping I can hang onto and maximize the attitude behind the latter

James Leff said...

Yes, it’s two sides of the same coin, and, like so much else, it’s entirely a matter of framing perspective. An outward-seeming phenomena reflects an inward choice.

Show me someone for whom the world is going to Hell, and I’ll show you someone static and incurious

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