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- Sunday, September 23, 2012 - From Print Edition

Over the top

Geezers, geriatrics or old bozos – take your pick – are yours for the asking. When you are one of them, the downward side of 60 years and plus, things are quite different and, in most cases, desperate. Some years ago, a frothing uncle stood his ground in a large pharmacy and demanded that he was not being served. The owner, hearing the commotion, came rushing down and tried to calm down the geezer. It transpired that uncle wanted half a pill of that magic blue pill and the attendant was trying to explain to him that they did not and could not give him just the half pill. Uncle, who was close to 80, finally calmed down and on the owner’s enquiry on his being too old for the blue pill, said through clenched dentures that he wanted it to stop wetting his feet.

And that’s the world of the geezers. Jokes abound – and to call them the butt of all jokes is in itself a joke as well. I don’t know about you all who are on the downward slide and trying to mend relations with the Almighty, but at this stage of life everything is in slow motion. You can no longer get out of a car without going into a Houdini-routine and, having achieved the impossible, take a few minutes to catch your breath. Bless the Americans who once designed a car where a push of a button swiveled the seat sideways so you could step out without twisting your spine and sustaining permanent damage. Why they stopped adding that particular feature one will never know but for the geezers it was a blow.

Suddenly managing stairs is nothing short of negotiating K-2’s North Face. Descending is just as arduous and a miracle should you arrive at base camp still in one piece. Then there are the hands. The shakes are on and increasing with what one can only call exponential speed. Cups rattle; water spills from perfectly stable glasses; pens fly out of fingers as if by magic and waving a hand is liable to bring the table lamp, flower vase and assorted doo-dads crashing down, much to the surprise of most geezers who are normally unable to notice the 8.5 Richter scale tremors in areas that were once rock steady. A friend developed a tennis elbow having never played tennis. Another notched up blood pressure readings that you would normally associate with a thoroughbred Ferrari – 0 to to 180 in 3 seconds; 180 to 120 in 2 seconds. Had it been put on a graph you would have thought an earthquake of gigantic proportions was razing everything to the ground.

Negotiating much familiar internal landscapes of houses where you might have lived for 30 years or more is now a skill that is rarely observed. The expression of ‘things that go bump in the night’ must have been coined after going through the shaky diary of a certified geezer. But this is now not about the night but ordinary days. Beds, tables, doors, windows, cupboards, sideboards, side tables all seem to have miraculously moved on their own so that they suddenly loom ahead like stealth bombers and before you know it, sounds of intense pain shooting up from your toe travel to your throat and a cry of pain rents the air. Every piece of furniture has too many edges. Elbows are grazed by door sides before you even know. Knees take heavy beating most days and yelping with pain is no solution. Hitting your head on the edge of a shadowy window is commonplace as is on the side of a car door. How somehow you manage to find the edge of all things with unfailing success will remain a mystery. Add to that the unsteady gait, the tentative shuffle and you get the picture.

The other bane of geezers is the craze to wrap everything in plastic. Why is everything so deceitfully machine wrapped now? First, you can’t spot the magic point which will open the infernal ketchup. It does not matter if you are at 500 feet or 33,000, in a restaurant or a jet, ketchup sachets refuse to open reducing most sane men into a frenzy bordering on insanity. Who makes these things and why aren’t they arrested? The last time I opened a bag of chips in a plane, it rained on most of the economy class. Packaged juices are another curse. The plastic straws I always get – luck of the draw I guess – refuse to puncture that small silver disc beyond which lies a refreshing beverage. You cannot cut the damn package anyway. How many of us carry pocket knives when we step out? And then there are the keys. Mine are extraterrestrial, I swear. They have kinetic energy and seldom appear where you left them, surfacing in an altogether different area. Are they sending encrypted messages into cyber space?

My record of losing keys and reading glasses is now vying for a hallowed place in the Guinness Book of Records and I stand a pretty good chance of winning too. I mean if the chaotic and utterly pointless Punjab Youth Festival has got in, what’s stopping a bonafide member of the Geriatrics Youth Club from sending in an entry? Every weekend, on Friday, as if by clockwork, I lose my keys and, thereby, my wallet. Most weekends are spent searching for them – first in the most likely places and then as desperation sets in, in the most unlikely places. I do not confine my search to a few places- have often examined fridges too. Who knows what the egg that passes (barely) for a brain might have done with the goods? The maid servant who has a God-given gift for locating the missing items is now charging for each ‘find.’ She has made a fortune I don’t mind confessing. Verily there is no justice.

There are, of course, a million other things that the geezers are unable to accomplish – reversing a car without demolishing your neighbour’s flower pots for one. Making a turn without denting your front guard is another. I can live with that as the demoralising sight of 20 stairs – where are we going? To Mars? – but the sight of young sprightly people, who have to run rather than walk with energy bordering on the other side of dementia, upsets me no end. They seem impervious to anything but plunge into things, heedlessly and recklessly as the geezers watch with unconcealed envy, drool dripping through their dentures mindlessly.

In Faulty Towers – that epic British comedy – Basil, played flawlessly by John Cleese, runs a hotel with his wife Sybil and a loony waiter. She is a bloodhound and Basil’s life is misery incarnate, the only happiness when a horse-bet pays off. In one episode, he is gleefully counting the winnings when Sybil pounces on him. ‘You look very happy Basil,’ she remarks and during the exchange, Basil takes the word ‘happy’ and tosses it about as if he does not remember what it really means. It’s a classic moment and somewhat sums up the state of the breathless geezers as they struggle on against a flaming sunset. ‘Happiness? Yes, yes I knew it once.’

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: [email protected]