Revisited: Happy Birthday to me

Yesterday was my fifty-sixth birthday. To honor the occasion, I’m reprinting the post I wrote for my birthday last year.

Today I celebrate what I calculate to be my fifty-fifth birthday. When you have to do the math to figure your age, you know you’re old. When your subtraction neglects to borrow from the hundreds column and you mistakenly calculate your age to be a negative number, you know you’re really old. With this birthday today, I think I’ve passed that threshold.

There are no party plans or other significant celebrations in the works. It’s a Thursday and we’re all still real tired from staying up for the election coverage the other night, so a party isn’t really practical (not to mention that I have no friends). My immediate family will be acknowledging me with cards, gifts and a special dinner that my wife is preparing. I got a few “happy birthdays” from my coworkers and I’m looking forward to a phone call from my parents tonight. But other than that, I’m on my own as to how I’m going to be receiving any unique treatment today.

It’s just the regular workday and the regular routine, so there’s not a lot of merriment I can inject into the occasion. I get up at 4 a.m., arrive at work by 5, take a lunch break around 10:30, get off at 1 p.m., stop by the Y for a workout, etc., etc. But I have managed to find a few small ways to honor myself on the anniversary of my birth.

  • I skipped flossing today. This part of the morning bathroom routine is always a challenge, and I know I’m not really treating myself by increasing my odds of tooth loss. But there’s not much fun to be found at this hour of the morning, and it seemed like more of a tangible treat than my other idea – to slather a little extra mayonnaise on the turkey sandwich I prepared for my lunch.
  • I chose a frayed, comfortable shirt to wear into the office. We don’t have much of a dress code, primarily because we don’t have much customer contact. I still like to wear a nice pair of business-casual slacks and what I guess is called a dress shirt. The one I picked out today isn’t what you’d call tattered but it has seen better days, like when I bought it for $2 at Goodwill about four years ago.
  • Today is recycling day in our neighborhood and it’s my job to haul the bin down to the curb. When I collected the assembled piles of newspapers, junk mail and magazines from the counter and carried them out to the driveway, I chose to toss a small batch of cardboard into the regular garbage, just to lighten the load of the bin by a half-pound or so. Sorry about that, melting glaciers.
  • Shortly after I arrived at work, my closest associate Arnie (a fellow Fifty-Something) gave me two slices of bread as a birthday present. It’s not as pathetic as it sounds. He bakes bread in a bread maker at home and this was from a nice dill and caraway seed batch he made just a few days ago. It was a little dry and a bit too seedy for my tastes but it was definitely not pathetic. He also gave me a Zip-Loc bag.
  • Though our workload has increased in recent days because of an upcoming quarterly deadline, I still had excess time to kill and used a game of Scrabble with another co-worker to help with the killing. I usually think it’s pretty bush league to play two-letter words. However, today I indulged myself by using not only “oy,” but also “oi” and “oe.”
  • Every time Arnie asked me a question or if I could help him out with a particular project, I responded by saying “Depends.” Incontinence humor is becoming a much more significant amusement for me than is probably healthy.
  • For my lunch break, I decided to take a 10-minute walk to the neighborhood diner. It was a beautiful day for early November, sunny and approaching 70. Though I didn’t stop along the way to smell the roses, I did pluck a wilting gardenia flower from a bush outside the diner and detected a slight pleasant scent before it crumbled in my hand.
  • I bought a cookie. I was going to use the change from the purchase to buy a local newspaper but as luck would have it, the change came out to be 48 cents and the newspaper stand required 50. I asked the diner cashier for change for a dollar and she declined, citing a critical lack of quarters in face of the upcoming lunch rush. Times are tough for everyone. I did find an abandoned USA Today in one of the booths, and that’s kind of a newspaper so I settled for that.
  • While reading the paper, I indulged in one of my traditional birthday customs. I always read the column that lists which celebrities are also having a birthday today, and try to figure which of them I can beat up. I’d honestly have to say I’m in pretty good shape for a 55-year-old and I think I can still take screenwriter Mike Nichols, actress Sally Field and (probably) California First Lady Maria Shriver. I’d probably choose to run from a tussle with actor Ethan Hawke though. On the “Birthdays in History” list, I feel confident that I could soundly whip March King John Phillip Sousa were he still among us.
  • Walking back to work from the diner, I took a scenic back road rather than risking my life along the shoulder of the truck-choked main highway. There’s no noise and no exhaust fumes and quite a few picturesque hardwoods, though the pastoral mood is lessened somewhat by the cinderblock back wall of a storage facility featuring the spray-painted message “redrum.”
  • Not many opportunities for self-indulgence during the final 90 minutes in the office. Afterward, I climbed in my car and headed home right on time. When I hit the interstate segment of my drive, I decided I could splurge a little by declining to use the cruise control and instead went about eight miles an hour over the speed limit. You don’t get much opportunity to live life on the edge when you’re more than halfway through your fifties so I’ve decided to make the most of what time I have left.
  • When I got home, I took a nap. Not that this is really anything all that special, since getting up at 4 in the morning each day makes the nap a necessary part of staying up past sundown.
  • When I woke up, I headed off to the Y to end my day with a run on the treadmill. You might think I’d use my birthday as an excuse to skip the exercise for just one day, but I’ve found running to be so relaxing and so addictive that it would ruin my day to miss it. I did make a few concessions – I set the speed on 5.4 mph instead of my usual 5.5 and I brought the machine to a halt after only 25 minutes instead of my usual 30. If I ever used the incline feature, I could’ve cut back on that too. Maybe I should’ve tried putting the setting down below zero to see if I could achieve a negative incline, which would allow me to run downhill. On second thought, I’m probably headed downhill fast enough already.

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One Response to “Revisited: Happy Birthday to me”

  1. planetross Says:

    A belated Happy Birthday!

    I end up working on my birthday most years and it sucks. I don’t have any greater amazing plans … it just sucks for some reason.

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