Gerald Karey writes: Bam! Pow! Smack! Slam! Splat!

A Writer Writes

Bam! Pow! Smack! Slam! Splat!

by Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965–67)

How do you know you’re getting older? Let me count the ways.

Here’s one certain way — you’re slowing and everything else is speeding up:

Traffic — Someone told me that traffic only seems faster because your reflexes slow with age. Maybe, but if I’m tooling along at, say,  70 mph in a 65 mph zone, I will be passed on my right and on my left by vehicles traveling, I’d say, at 80 and 85 mph, along with the obligatory tailgating.

Technology — Check out your basement or attic, or visit a recycling  center. Stacks and stacks of yesterday’s must haves, waiting to be shipped off to God knows where to be stripped for reusable metals, plastic, wiring, perhaps to wind up in tomorrow’s shiny new electronic toys, where they will begin their life-cycle all over again. And it happens fast as developers continue to develop new gizmos to churn the market and keep consumers coming back for the latest and greatest and fastest. And you still haven’t quite figured out how to use the remote. Any remote.

Food and eating — Fast food, instant meals, eating at your desk, eating on the run, entire meals you can eat with one hand leaving the other hand free for multi-tasking, five-minute breakfasts, ten-minute lunches and 15-minute dinners at home, with which ever family members just happens to be passing through.

Real conversations — WTF, gone the way of the dodo bird. Texting, emailing, Tweeting, Instagram. Instant communication from your fingers to their eyes, too often bypassing your brain. Nothing face to face, of course. I’ve been in a restaurant and seen a couple at a nearby table ignoring each other and texting. Maybe that’s the new secret to a good relationship — no direct communication.

Speed eating, speed dating, speed dialing, speed creation — has it really been only six thousand years?

And the one constant that is always changing and moving faster than ever, it seems: time itself. What’s with this being 2015? Fifteen percent of the 21st Century?  Yeah, I know we ask every year, where did the time go? Why it was only yesterday that . . .

Has it been close to fifty  years since I graduated from college and joined the Peace Corps? Forty years since I took my first job in journalism? Thirty-three years since I married? Twenty-seven years since I became a father? Two decades since my father died? Six years since my mother died (an eye blink in time)? Already one year since last year at this time?

Yes, to all of the above. Time creeps by at a petty pace day to day, unremarked upon, unnoticed  All your tomorrows become yesterdays, piled one atop the other in an unruly heap, a lifetime of yesterdays mostly forgotten. It’s the years that fly by, not so much the hours and days. I wish I paid more attention at the time.

And the years pass more quickly, the older I am. Perhaps I simply choose not to  keep up, or simply can’t. As soon as some cultural phenomena, music group, Internet sensation, Twitter rage or Kardashian outrage reaches my level of awareness, everyone has moved onto the next big thing. So I don’t bother trying to keep up, even if I could.

The world is changing too fast: new enemies, new friends, new threats, new trouble spots, new lies, new evils, new viruses, coming your way 24/7 at comic book speed: Bam! Pow! Smack! Slam! Splat! And our only real heroes are comic book heroes.

I’m hanging on as best I can. But it’s getting difficult.

Gerald Karey taught English in a middle school in a Turkish village from 1965 to 1967. After the Peace Corps, he worked as a general assignment reporter for two newspapers in New Jersey, and for a McGraw-Hill newsletter in Washington, D.C., where he covered energy and environmental issues. A collection of his essays entitled Unhinged, was published in October, 2014.

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