I remember talking to a co-worker shortly before I retired earlier in the year. He said that several retirees he knew told him they seem to have less time now than they did when they were working full-time.
“That’s understandable,” I said. “They all drive those big cars of theirs at about seven miles an hour. It takes them longer to pick up their prescriptions at Walgreen’s than it does to evacuate to Arkansas for a hurricane.”
I swore that wasn’t going to be the case with me. I planned for an active retirement, and by “active”, I mean more than just learning some new hobby like scuba diving—one that’s quite popular among retirees these days, if only so they can recover their lost golf balls. No, I intended to keep a full schedule, doing some part time consulting while spending the rest of my hours writing humor. This latter activity primarily consists of finding new and inventive ways of constructing sentences that include the words “road kill”.
I swore that I would do all of this without the aid of an alarm clock. I was going to keep a full schedule, all right, but it was going to be my schedule. If I wanted to sleep until the crack of noon and work into the wee hours, I should be able to. Why should jazz musicians, bartenders, and hookers be the only ones who get to do that?
Once retired, however, I found that I just couldn’t sleep to the crack of noon. Rising early had become hardwired into my psyche. So had depending on others to make more coffee after I’d drained the pot. To that end, it disturbed me to learn that things didn’t quite work the same way at home as they did back in the office. I would spend hours pacing back and forth to the kitchen, wondering why the pot was still empty. This wasted precious time that could have otherwise been put to good use writing more sentences about road kill.
Some habits were easier to break. Mornings used to be so hectic that I’d barely had time to scan the headlines in the newspaper. Once retired, however, I took pleasure in having time to read full newspaper stories. And not only that. I could do the crossword and the Sudoku puzzles, follow “Rex Morgan, M.D.” in the comics, check the obituaries (a section that bears increasing significance as one ages), and dig into the bridge column. Now, I haven’t played a game of bridge since Bruce Springsteen made a decent record. But now that I’m retired, I find that I’ve developed a strange fascination for the subject of bridge. Many a morning, I’d ponder over questions such as whether to ruff a low spade or discard a singleton diamond to get to the dummy.
These activities would generally keep me occupied until lunch, after which comes time to flick on the TV, this to satisfy my newfound appreciation for the clever humor in Ellen DeGeneres’ monologues. I wouldn’t watch past the monologue, however, as I somehow never developed the same level of appreciation for male underwear models.
By then it’s mid-afternoon. It gets pretty hot here in Louisiana by that time of day, and so I’d conclude that a cold beer sure would taste good. One benefit of retirement is that you are not constrained, as are the working stiffs, to have to wait until five to enjoy a cold one. I could do it any time I like, and I’m determined to use that benefit to full advantage.
All this time, I’m aware that I need to get my brain in gear and start thinking about road kill. And I figure that a few beers are just the ticket for some much-needed inspiration. The going is slow at the keyboard, however, as by late afternoon my fingers are finding it quite difficult to follow my brain’s command. After a few months of this, I’d all but worn out the lettering on the backspace key.
Suppertime comes, after which my wife has the audacity to ask me to clean the dishes. This is a request that I can’t refuse, however, if I want to keep my Cal Ripken, Jr., autographed baseball from becoming a dog toy. So I do the dishes. This, of course, transfers all of the blame for not getting any writing done squarely onto her shoulders.
She has big shoulders for responsibility, though, and it’s a good thing. Mine would be overburdened just remembering what time the baseball game starts that night on ESPN.