By Vernon Felton
"Ah, look at that—Turtle's got the good shit!"
Six sets of eyes swivel to the far end of the table where Turtle is groggily dumping the contents of a small bottle onto the table. The pills cascade out in an untidy pile of pink tabs.
Suddenly things get real quiet. And then…"Hey, Turtle, can I get one of those?"
I'm not sure who sneaks that question out there first, but I catch the thread of desperation that clings to it. The sentence doesn't hang in the air for more than a second before it's joined by five more just like it. Turtle just shrugs and starts flicking pills, one by one, to the guys at the table, who scrabble for them like they were made of gold and diamond dust.
I'm always groggy in the mornings and the previous night was one of those fuzzy-edged affairs that straggled on and on, long into the early morning, so I'm particularly slow on the take today. What the hell kind of drug is this?
"Uh, Turtle, what have you got there?"
One of the guys turns his bleary eyes my way, "You know, the good shit—400 milligram eye-bees—straight outta Canada."
"Damn straight—it's like, I don't know, two American Ibuprofen rolled into one pill." He pops the pink capsule into his mouth, swallows with relish and sinks back into his chair with a contented sigh.
And this is how you know you've become old—when you and your friends start getting excited about extra-strength Advil.
WELCOME TO OLD AS HELL
There are some things that you just don't understand until they happen to you. When you're 10, you hear about how horrible this puberty thing is going to be and you're wondering, "What the hell is puberty anyway?" Then one day (if you're a guy) you wake up hating the world, hating life and wondering how you're going to hide the zits and that constant erection that are now hitchhiking with you wherever you go. You suddenly understand this whole puberty thing.
People tell you that when you have kids, everything changes. Everything. And you shrug and roll your eyes, because, whatever… You don't have kids and you sure don't plan on producing a crop of rugrats anytime soon. Then one day, damn, you're life is nothing but diapers and Tickle Me Elmo and awkward parent-teacher meetings and tantrums in the super market and weekends not spent doing, uh, anything you used to love doing on weekends. You suddenly understand being a parent.
A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND CREAKY STEPS
Growing older is a lot like that.
In our meticulously-preserved Botox'd, chin-tucked, Hair Club for Men-ified world, you can be fooled into thinking it ain't going to happen to you. You're just a young buck stuck in amber. Timeless. Forever fit and full of piss and vinegar. Which is ridiculous, right? I mean, we're talking math here. You keep breathing, you watch a couple seasons of Mad Men and before you know it, voila, you need annual prostate exams and no one's asking for your driver's license when you buy a six-pack at the super market. And, here's the especially cruel bit—there's a sign posted at the damned register, which says that if you look a day under 50 they have to ask for your I.D. It’s the law and everything. But they aren't even bothering with the whole I.D. mess when you roll up to the till. Think about that for a second. Now you understand getting old.
Of course, this is just the beginning. This getting old thing is a journey of many years. You can call it a "marvelous journey", if you like. My mother is looking at retirement homes, so I'm familiar with the marketing literature showing grinning geriatric-types who appear thrilled to be playing bingo or watching ducks on a pond. But look, this old age thing generally ends with you in a pair of Depends, spending entire days with nothing Matlock or Murder She Wrote for company, so let's cut the Hallmark crap. We'll just call it a “journey”.
I was reminded of all this as my co-workers, guys who raised glorious hell for decades now, greedily gobbled up the Canadian-issue, extra-strength Advil. A couple of them were drinking kale smoothies. Someone was feebly attempting to do yoga. Yoga…
Ten years ago we could ride bikes for days on end and carouse all night, then bounce right back up in the morning, ready to tear the world a whole new asshole. There were years when "the good shit" was a phrase that we used for pharmaceuticals that were not famous for reducing fever and the nagging effects of arthritis and menstrual cramps.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not glorifying the illicit use of chemicals, I just find myself a bit nostalgic for a time when I could look at a bottle of extra-strength Advil without thinking, "Damn, I really need five of those right now."
Welcome to old.
None of this is making any sense? Good for you. Hang on to that. Those are great years—get out there and suck the marrow right out of them. Trust me, there will be a day when you say, "Shit…now I understand." Until then, raise some hell for the rest of us.