Would you like a walker with that bagel?

Like most Baby Boomers, I don’t feel old. I mean, I’m only 67; old doesn’t start until around 90, right?

Every now and then, though, I get hints. I don’t mean having trouble getting up off the sofa or unaccountably falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon and then having trouble getting up off the sofa. No, the hints usually come from an encounter I have with someone much, much younger.

Like today. I had stopped at Panera to get some bagels. I’ve been wanting a bagel for the last few days and since I was out, I decided to stop by and… buy. Panera is one of my favorite retail establishments. For a couple of years after I retired, I went to the Panera near our house almost every morning for a pastry and an unlimited cup of coffee. I’d sit and read, or work on my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442). And surprisingly, over those two years, I managed to gain ten pounds. I can’t imaging how it happened, exactly; bear claws and cherry pastries and cinnamon rolls don’t weigh much and coffee certainly doesn’t. Well, after I finished my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442), I decided I’d start my mornings doing something different and I began going to the Jewish Community Center, where we had a membership, four, sometime five, sometimes six times a week. Over the past year, I’ve not only lost those ten pounds I had gained, but lost a few more. I discovered that some of the pants in my closet had not actually shrunk, as I was pretty sure they had done (there is scientific research that suggests that the atmosphere in closets contributes to shrinkage of clothing fibers; really, you can look it up). The combination of not going to Panera ever morning and our preparations for moving to Manhattan have cut my calories and my writing, but over all, it’s been a good trade-off.

But, I digress.

This is not about gaining weight or about my cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495304442); it’s about aging.

As I said, now and then an encounter provides a renewed glimpse of reality. The young lady who cheerfully asked if she could help me and if I had a Panera card, had a name-tag that said “The Beatles.” In addition to their name, like Mary or Tom or Rolando, every Panera associate puts a word or phrase on their tag that indicates something they are really interested in. I think it’s meant to be a conversation-starter or way to connect with the customer, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone but me ask about why they like photography or “my kids” or Jesus. Well, as I said Jessica’s (not her real name, wink, wink) tag said the Beatles, so I asked “What’s your favorite Beatles song?”

“Blackbird,” she answered without hesitation.

“Ah, that’s a good one,” I said. “Why do you like ‘Blackbird’?”

“My grandmother used to sing it to me all the time,” Jessica replied.

GRANDMOTHER. Not mother. GRANDMOTHER. Jessica’s GRANDMOTHER grew up listening to the Beatles. Jessica got her love of the Beatles from her GRANDMOTHER! I grew up listening to the Beatles (all those 45s and LPs are stored in boxes awaiting our next move). Jessica’s GRANDMOTHER and I are probably about the same age!

So, there it was, in the middle of Panera, the reminder that I’m not 21, or 35, or even 45. I’m not old, but I’m not chronologically young either. I guess this is what middle-age feels like. Fortunately, I’m not sitting on the sofa writing this, but I do feel a nap coming on.

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