Flirting with disaster

By Chuck Sigars | Mar 20, 2013

My daughter briefly became a conspiracy theorist when she was in middle school, a time of life when it seems to me a natural thing to imagine that the world is working against your best interests.

In her particular case, she was a fan of “The X-Files,” which was a popular show at the time, and so I’m sure it was easy for her 12-year-old self to imagine massive government bureaucracies keeping huge cosmic secrets from the rest of us. It’s not that hard now.

I never watched “The X-Files” other than inadvertently, walking through a room with the TV on. This didn’t keep me from rolling my eyes and making jokes, although to be fair I really paid no attention.

It was about a couple of FBI agents investigating supernatural phenomena, I think. One of them was named Scully. That’s about all I know.

But I was thinking about the show the other day, for a couple of reasons. One was an article I read in The Economist (which I read all the time, of course. Don’t you?) that suggested a pretty drastic downtick in the number of UFO sightings lately.

A precipitous drop, in fact. One that appears to correlate with the increase in human technology capable of documenting UFOs. Video cameras. Cellphones. You get the picture (sorry).

There was also a suggestion that perhaps we humans are becoming less gullible, as we and our technology evolve.

I might wonder about that, given the number of people I see on Facebook who seem to believe that by clicking “Like” they’ll help a small child get a heart operation, but it’s an interesting idea.

There’s something else going on, though, not only with our well-meaning Facebook friends but also with some UFO seekers, as well as, I seem to recall, one of the “X-Files” characters (maybe Scully).

There seems to be a desire to believe in something, something hopeful, even when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We’re reluctant to give up on these dreams, and we practice a little denial to keep our spirits up.

And thus we come to the aging male.

Which, to be fair, we almost always do.

I made a little joke last summer, when I turned 54. It being a political season, and so seeing a lot of polls focusing on various demographic groups, I noticed that “55 and over” was something I saw a lot.

Apparently, it seemed to me, once one turns 55 one becomes a specific type of person, which I guess is best summed up as “not dead quite yet.”

As I said, it was just a joke. I wrote that I was planning on living as much of my last pre-senior citizen year as fully as I could, but I was just making that up. I pretty much do the same things I always did.

That said, I can’t swear that, somewhere in the back of my head where normal people have functional brain cells, I haven’t been feeling my age. Not physically, but in every other way. Socially. Emotionally. Spiritually. Cognitively. Neurotically.

And as much as I dearly love to think of myself as an iconoclast, a singular individual who marches to a much different drummer, one who drums primarily on my right side because I have a slight hearing loss on my left, I know that I’m not alone.

There are plenty of people my age who are feeling the same way. I know. I see them at the mall. They’re wearing ridiculous clothes. Other things.

And I’m a man, which means I face aging the way a man is supposed to, by bucking up and doing something stupid. Trying to move a refrigerator, or flirting with a young woman, both of which are really bad ideas.

So I did an aging man thing, I guess, with the running.

I like to walk. It gets me out of the house, it clears my head, it burns a few calories. I get to see some neighbors and more than a couple of familiar dogs. Walking is fun and good for me.

But I see men and women who appear to be my age or even older, if such a thing is possible, who are runners. They look fit and healthy, so maybe that was it.

At any rate, I devised a plan in which I’d start slowly, walking for a few minutes, running for a bit, back to walking. A gradual program. I did this on one particular day, and I felt OK. In fact, at the end of an hour or so, I calculated that I had intermittently run for a couple of miles. Imagine that. Having not run for exercise in decades, and I just ran two miles.

You know how people sometimes say that they have pain in places they didn’t even know were places? That didn’t happen. I had pain in very specific places that I knew all about, specifically my legs and lower back.

For three or four days, in fact, I was pretty sure that sudden cardiac death would have been a better option.

This is what happens, you see, when you believe in things that aren’t real, or at least possible. I’ll stick to walking, as soon as that’s feasible again, and I’ll feel fortunate to be 54, potentially 55 next summer, when I’ll gladly accept my new demographic status.

I’ll let a younger man move the refrigerator, and maybe I’ll just hire somebody to flirt for me, should the occasion arise. Somebody named Scully, preferably.

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