Apparently, I am now considered vintage. Let me explain.
In something like a twisted episode of the old “Twilight Zone,” I left on a week-long road trip as what I considered to be a middle-aged guy, and somehow, inexplicably, returned as an old man. For one week, the universe seemed to have it in for me — kicking at and shaking my ego onto its knees.
Strike-one came early. While stopping at a roadside gas station, I walked in to grab a bottle of water. Walking up to the counter, a young girl, roughly the age of my own daughter, looked up.
“Wow, I like your hair,” she said. “Not too often when you see an older gentleman taking an interest in his hair and wearing it with style.”
For a moment — ever so briefly — I wondered who the young girl might be speaking to. And then, like the revealing payoff moment in each episode, the iconic theme music began dancing a terrorizing jig between my ears. The older man was me.
We all like to think we are perpetually young, or at least immune to the march of time. Old is always for someone else. We even manufacture life preserver-type phrases hoping to distract us from the face changing in the mirror. This list of greatest hits includes “You’re only as old as you act” or “Age is only a number” and other well-meaning but hollow phrases.
None of these turns of phrase rescued me three days later when a young woman stepped aboard a bus I was riding. With seats filling up, I heard my mother’s voice and got up, offering my seat to the late-boarding passenger.
“Oh no,” she said. “I’m young. Thanks all the same.”
Strike-two hit me with the force of a Nolan Ryan fastball to the rib cage — even taking away my breath and another piece of my already bruised ego.
Sitting back down, I wondered what I had done to piss off the universe.
Strike-three came later that night when a young man walked up, did a double-take, and stopped.
“Dude, awesome vintage watch,” he said. “What’s the story here?”
Again, I found myself momentarily confused — what vintage watch, I wondered.
Looking down I saw my favorite watch, one accompanying me everywhere from mountain hikes to diving into teal blue waters. A traveling partner of tens of thousands of road miles, and a survivor of being whacked into walls and submerged into cold mountain streams, the watch is practically a part of my being.
Then I did the math. My watch began traveling with me before the young man could grow a beard.
Leaning in, the young man admired my timepiece with reverence — as if seeing a rare fossil from a time long passed, from a time when watches told time and phones only made calls. To him, my watch served as a cool reminder of authenticity.
I cried uncle. If age and authentic equals vintage, then count me in. Just don’t call me old.
Editor’s note: This column first appeared in 2018.