Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Official: I'm a Geezer!

At home in Fort Worth

I  can distinctly remember how uncool I thought my parents were in my formative years--which, much to their dismay, lasted about three decades.

It was not out of necessity that my parents fed our family largely from dad's vegetable garden and the occasional catch of the day from his trips to the fishing holes. They did so because it was just the best food on earth. I am ashamed to confess that, in my adolescent fog, I lacked a proper appreciation for my dad's gardening and fishing skills and my mother's total mastery of the art of cooking the fresh food that was in such abundance then. To me, it was all so very, ah, rural.

I guess I fancied myself then as a dazzling urbanite--somewhat fanciful, it would seem, there in Nacogdoches, my east Texas home town of some 12,000 citizens. I tended to turn up my nose more often than not at my mother's smorgasbord of beans, greens, squash, okra and the like. How nice it would be, I thought, if we could just have the Wonder bread hyped on TV instead of the incessant parade of homemade cornbread, biscuits and rolls from mother's kitchen.  If only we could eat at restaurants, I thought.  What an ignoramus I was...and what I would give now for just one more of those meals!

Yes, my folks were hopelessly square geezers, I thought. They were so old school that they didn't have a computer or a credit card...or any debt, for that matter.  They occasionally watched TV, especially Lawrence Welk, but their favorite form of entertainment was something called "visiting."  This curious practice involved gathering with friends or relatives and doing nothing more than talking and storytelling for a few hours. Yes, I know, this custom has largely disappeared today, having been replaced with TV, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and email, but I still miss those stories and being in awe of the storytellers. 

This provides a background for my assertion above that I have become a geezer, too. What, you ask, precipitated this catharsis?  Well, it was my recent visit to the dentist, of all things.

I had gone to the dentist to have a sensitive tooth checked out and afterward, when I stopped to pay the bill, I was greeted by a willowy young girl with brown hair who almost certainly had not yet seen her twentieth birthday. After smiling and officiously checking my account on her computer terminal, she said, "That'll be twenty-one dollars today, Mr. Mills."  (It was a co-pay; I have dental insurance, in case you're wondering.)  I opened my wallet and retrieved a twenty and a five, laying them on the granite counter in front of her.  At this point, she looked at the two bills, studying them momentarily, then looked up at me, bewildered, her eyebrows raised and her brown eyes now a good deal larger than before.  At one point, she looked over her shoulder at her comrades as if to say, "What do I do now?"

Since the appearance of the two bills on the counter had clearly flummoxed the young lady, I instinctively said, "I can give you a bank card if it'll make things easier for you."  Instantly, she broke into a big smile and eagerly pushed the two bills toward me. One swipe with my card, and I shuffled out to my car.  As I sat down in the driver's seat, pondering the young lady's recoil from my offer of cash, it hit me:  She had probably never done a cash transaction. Cash must be for geezers!  For perhaps the first time, I wondered why I had not just gone ahead and used my card in the first place; it would have been so very simple and easy.

For years, I have had a habit of carrying a few hundred dollars in my wallet because cash--until now--has just seemed a simpler way to pay for small purchases. However, I have observed that more and more people are paying with plastic and young folks, like my daughter, Mindy, use a bank card almost exclusively to pay for everything--even things costing less than a dollar!  I had also noticed the arrival of card swipe-thingies at the drive-in windows of fast food joints, but I considered it more of a curiosity than anything else. I couldn't imagine why anyone would use a credit card to pay for a hamburger!  We geezers are clearly the last to connect the dots, aren't we?  

For most of Mindy's life, I frequently asked how much cash she had, knowing that if she had any at all, she would probably have found it on the ground. Then I would surreptitiously put a few bills in her purse, because geezers--especially geezers who are fathers--just can't cope with the thought of anyone--especially their daughters--carrying little or no cash.  Now I find myself wondering why I was thinking that having cash was so important. 

As I pondered this, I remembered an article in the newspaper (the reading of which also probably qualifies me as a geezer) about Sweden's imminent changeover to become a cashless society.  When I arrived back at the office, I did a little research (with Google, what else?) and found that Sweden is getting rid of cash because only three percent of transactions there involve an exchange using cash; for them, maintaining a national currency is more trouble and expense than it is worth. The article went on to reveal that only seven percent of transactions in the U. S. are now made using cash!  Upon reading this, I'm sure I gasped audibly! When did this happen, and how did I not notice it, I asked myself. Was the descent into my currency-laden geezerhood as insidious as, say, bladder problems?  Maybe so; I didn't realize I had those, either, until trips to the bathroom became my most reliable and frequent source of exercise. 

Feeling suddenly old, I quickly took stock of all the modern gadgets I use--an iPhone, an iPad, an iMac, a GPS and wireless internet, among others--and I felt a little better. Surely geezers don't use those, right? Then, I began to worry that I still may be fighting a losing battle, because I always seem not to have the latest version of anything.  My iPhone doesn't have Siri, and I still have an iPad II, for goodness sake!  Does that make me a geezer?  I'm not sure but, as I write this, I'm becoming even less sure that I care.  

Since this paradigm shift, I've been having a little trouble with the weirdness that comes with my realization that carrying a bunch of cash is, well, frowned upon, I suppose. For example, when I retrieve cash from my wallet to pay for something, I am careful to hold my hand in such a way that the bills I have are not visible, for fear of my being ridiculed as being a member of the one-percent group or something else that's out of favor today. Before this latest enlightenment, I used to be careful with my wallet for fear of attracting criminals, but now I'm not even sure they want cash anymore. Pretty soon, I guess, using cash will be like offering a chicken or goat to pay for something. People will be amused, but then a call will be made, and some men will come and gently lead me away.

More thoughts on becoming a geezer in the next post.   


  1. I was able to identify with every Geezerism you felt, right from start to finish. How in the heck did all this Geezeritus stuff happen to us anyway?? Sneaked right up on us it did!!

  2. Well, I'm happy say that, when I was a young snot, I quite enjoyed my Mother's cooking. Couldn't get enough of it. There are still some things she made that I'd like to replicate, but she never really used recipes. That can make it kinda tough.
    I'd even sit with my parents and watch Lawrence Welk, even though it really wasn't my first choice.
    I also use cash. Especially here in Austria. If it's a big purchase we might use our credit card, but any money that we would take out of our Austrian bank account would only have to be replaced to pay the bills (from our Canadian bank account). So there's no point using a bank card, and I have a couple of them.
    Besides, it seems to me that using a bank card at the check-out seems to take a quite a bit longer than just using cash.
    Not sure what's up with Sweden though, but good luck to them.

  3. What a great post. Only 7% are cash transactions? That just seems incredible to me until I stop to think that my hubby uses his bank card for almost everything he buys. And we have become my parents - Dad always made sure Mom had a $20 bill in her purse "just in case". Well, guess what I carry in my purse. And I too miss my Mom's cooking. No matter how closely I follow what she had written down, it doesn't taste the same.

  4. this has to be the best post I have read in a long time!!!! funny and oh so very true!!!..although I have to admit we very rarely carry cash...usually debit or credit cards for seems if you have $20 it just disappears very quickly??

  5. Great post - and certainly struck close to home. I admit to using my credit card for almost everything. Not that I don't like cash but you don't get any "points" for using cash and I like my rewards:)) I'm not surprised at the young lady's startled response to your transaction. Perhaps her dilemma was how to make change. Have you ever noticed how the clerks nowadays, of any age, cannot count back change? They only give you what their machines tell them to give you and without that information, they would be totally lost.

  6. I decided I was officially a geezer when I was able to use the senior menu in a restaurant the first time. I am not ashamed of my geezerism though: although I am an "older" woman, I can still toss all the younger fit men in my judo group, I can still solve a hard math equation that my son has trouble with, and I can recall cool things from WAY back that amaze my offspring. I intend to continue aging with confidence and grace.

  7. Mike, Mike, Mike, you geezer you, this is such a well written and thought out blog. I enjoyed every word.

    I consider myself a geezer since I joined AARP at the age of 50, that was, yep, just about ten years ago. Not everyone considers me a geezer, though, still have to pay full price at the movies until I'm 62. Can't get Social Security yet, so I guess I'm not fully invited to the geezer club yet. I'm in geezer limbo land.


  8. Great post...I can relate to your examples very well. The problem with using plastic is that we often spend much more than we would using cash. I am guilty of this because I like the convenience of not having to go to the bank when I want to buy something. If I did, I probably wouldn't buy it!

  9. Strange things happen to us as we age. Not to many years ago I remembering arguing with the old guys in the office to get a facsimile machine installed. Now I think faxes are old school. And are the "getting started" directions getting more involved or am I getting dumber.

  10. High tech geezers rule the world!!!

    I takes one to know one!

  11. An awesome posting. I too can relate to every item there. Still trying to0 get caught up no, i-pad, or i-phone yet, but I can still get by.

  12. Great blog post. So very true. I remember walking in the door home from school and the wonderful smell of homemade stew all made from homegrown beef and produce. It was delicious! I have never been able to reproduce that stew. I couldn't wait to leave the rural areas but now I am drawn back. Canada embraced the debit system early and we often realize we haven't carried cash in our wallets for a long time. When we travel in the U.S. we have to get in the habit of again carrying cash as we often come across campgrounds that only accept cash. Hard to admit but we too are becoming Geezers!

  13. Great post! I grew up in Arkansas on a farm but unlike you remember loving the vegetables from the garden, wishing I could grow the same kind of garden here in Montana, not happening! Cash or even checks do seem to be a thing of the past anymore.

  14. Enjoyed the blog very much and all the comments, too...made me long for the old "homestyle cooking" from scratch! Surprised the heck out of me with the 7% number...It's kind of sad that we are losing the wonderful, healthy lifestyles we grew up with. Guess that fact makes me a geezer, too, besides my age. :-)

  15. butterbean carpenterMay 31, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Howdy Cowtown Mike,
    How many hits did you get from being on THE BAYFIELD BUNCH BLOG SHOW?? Agreat many I'm sure, including mine; I don't know why, but I 'dropped' you a while back and just now thought about you!! I'm in Coleman county, Texas.. Good blog about 'geezerisms';I've been a geezer a lot longer than you and BB Al have..No TV, no cell phone, no iPad or iNothing, no credit cards,no cash, no sense!!
    Just live out here, breathe CLEAN AIR, SEE THE STARS at night; LIFE IS GOOD!!!
    If I had to go back to the POISONPLEX I think I'd just fall over dead!!! Be careful of the Arlington Red-Light Ignorers!! (They didn't STOP for'em in Mexico either)

    1. Glad to have you back, Butterbean. And yes, I got a bunch of hits from being mentioned by Incomparable Al.


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