John Brock: Old folks who smile can say just about anything and be excused

  • Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The older I get the more I have come to discover that old folks can say just about anything and those around them will excuse their utterances — especially if they are smiling when they say it.

I used to think that you could say anything if you smiled. It works pretty well most of the time as Southerners have found out, but, not always.

If you’re both old and smiling, there is almost no limit to what you can get away with.

I am at that in-between age — too old to be considered a flirt but too young to be seen as a really “dirty old man.” This means that I can get by with just about any comment I make that is in reasonably good taste. Granted, many times my comments are sloughed off as the utterances of an “old fool.” Others simply determine that I must be into senility or worse. Either way, it makes for a great deal of fun.

For instance, I always ask a new dental hygienist if she rinses off those instruments between patients. You should see some of the reactions – ranging from righteous indignation to that “old fool” look.

I do a similar thing whenever I have an X-ray of any sort. I comment after my “picture” has been taken, “Gee, I barely felt that.” There’s that “old fool” look again. One day, I went to the hospital to pick up some of my X-rays to take to the doctor and they asked for a picture ID before they would let me have them. I responded, “You have a whole envelope of “Picture IDs” in your hand. Why do you need another “picture?” No “old fool” look this time — just an amused smile.

If you want to cause a real commotion just reply to the doctor’s nurse when she asks if your medications have changed, “I have recently stopped taking all of my medications.” It freaks them out.

Sometimes to the embarrassment of my wife when we are eating in a restaurant, I will order Shrimp Creole (my favorite) and ask that it be cooked “medium rare.” You should see some of the facial reactions from our waitperson. That “old fool” look again!

On other occasions, when I am driving too slowly to suit the impatient person behind me who is riding my tail and blowing the horn, I will slow down or sometimes stop altogether; turn around; wave enthusiastically and blow them a kiss. It may infuriate them but they get off my tail as they wonder, “Is that someone I know who recognizes me and was just being friendly and neighborly? Could that be my preacher?” Or is it just another old fool?

I told my dermatologist the other day that I was trying to lose some weight and could she please take off several moles on my body to help me in my weight-loss effort. I figured they would weigh a gram or two. I’m not certain that she found real humor in my question. But I had a little fun.

I saw a young lady one day with outrageously tall “platform” shoes. Without thinking, I asked, “How do you keep from falling off of those shoes and seriously injuring yourself?” She was probably young enough to be my granddaughter and took no offense as she patiently stopped to explain how one can walk, thusly shod. I appreciated her genuine condescension and tried as best as I could to act like I really cared for her explanation. Bless her heart!

One group that I no longer feel comfortable in kidding with is young kids. I used to really enjoy bantering with them. I would see a kid with a dog and ask, “How about selling me that cute dog? The child, of course, was indignant that I would think he would part with his dog and would let me know so, in no uncertain terms, whereupon, I would offer him a quarter. More indignation. I would get as high as a dollar or two before we would both break into laughter at the absurdity of the situation. Although, one kid was about to let me have his dog for $2. I had to do a little quick talking to get out of that purchase. It was an ugly old dog and I figured he was tired of hearing about it and was taking the opportunity to get rid of the poor mutt. But most kids wouldn’t give up their pal for a thousand dollars or more. They are less materialistic than their older contemporaries.

But, I don’t tease with kids anymore unless I am well acquainted with them and their parents. We have become so protective (and rightly so) of our children because of all the crazy people in the world. Parents are suspicious of all strangers (and they should be to a certain extent) but the actions of a few crazies have robbed both adult and child of much camaraderie. It’s a shame but that’s the world we live in today.

I became acutely aware of this ten years or more ago when I was sitting around the swimming pool with my little dog. A small child came up to me and started asking about my pet. I, of course, responded and we were having a nice little conversation when his mother came storming from the other end of the pool; snatched her youngster into her arms and gave me a look I shall never forget. It made me acutely aware of the new attitude of parents. I have accepted it but I miss the little encounters with youngsters that once enriched my life — and perhaps theirs.

So, as long as I can, I’ll just keep on smiling and getting older until I get to that really “Dirty Old Man” stage when I’ll just have to learn to keep my mouth shut. It’s gonna’ be hard.

John Brock is a retired professor and newspaper editor/publisher who lives in Georgetown County. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper or via Email: brock@johnbrock.com. His website featuring his new book, “Southern Breezes Whistle Dixie,” can be found at www.SouthernObserver.com.

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