Thursday, December 19, 2013

Everything new is old again

Well, it happened.

It has happened to so many people over the years and I know that each person remembers exactly where he was when it happened to him. Now, with the advent of this here ol' computing machine, I can memorialize and eternalize that moment and share it with others like so much misery.

I was in a bad mood to begin with (starting approximately 40 years ago). I'm a middle aged guy who is working hard not to eat junk food, to watch quality television and to share special moments with my family. There is nothing on TV, the only movie we could all agree on is not available yet and I have been craving donuts for a while now. I decided to get some donuts. This is the beautiful thing about living here in scenic Teaneck -- I can get kosher Dunkin Donuts at relatively late hours (9:30 PM this evening). I was asked by my wife to pick up a latte (that's French for "not really coffee") and by my daughter for a hot chocolate so I went, ready to spend some cash and buy some calories. I even thought about getting a coffee for myself. This, I thought, was going to be epic. OK, so there is nothing on TV. OK so my family would rather watch reruns of test patterns than have a conversation with me. Donuts would make it all better. Don't they always?

I bundle up and I drive off, visions of custard, glazes and cookies in my head. I'm an adult, I figure, so I can buy whatever the heck I want and I don't have to explain myself away to anyone. Two words for you: E PIC.

In I go, the only customer. I scan the bins and realize that donut places are not really equipped to cater to the discerning chocolate palate this late at night. There are only 2 anemic cookies left in the chocolate family. But I figure I can rationalize some other flavor so I start planning my assault on Mt. Carb-Coma. In the meanwhile I place the order for the drinks. One decaf latte, skim milk, three sugars. Check. One small hot chocolate. Check. The cashier rings up the total and before I make my donut choice (possibly a dozen red velvet donut holes, both cookies and a chocolate chip muffin and, oh yeah, an entire coffee cake, but not blueberry; I'm not a pig, people) I take a look at the running total.

And there it is: the latte? $1.39. The cocoa? $1.74. But is the subtotal $3.73? Nope. It is $3.54. There is another line which reads

1 Senior 5% (0.19)

The woman at Dunkin Donuts, arguably the most important woman in my life, at least at that moment, has decided that I am a senior citizen and I should get a senior citizen discount.


I'm 43 years old. I wear jeans and t-shirts with sneakers. I sit on the floor and eat cold cereal with milk while I am too close to the TV. I read the comics. For heaven's sake, I laugh at toilet humor! I AM NOT A SENIOR CITIZEN.

So this is it. I am officially old. There is no category beyond this one besides "dead."

I still recall when I moved from the child category to the adult category when paying for admission to the Bronx Zoo (well worth it, by the should visit). I remember when I became old enough to watch R rated movies without a parent, and I realized that I couldn't watch them without a car, or money, or interest. I recall when I became old enough to drink and vote, and vote about drinking. My draft registration notice. My ability to rent a car, to become president. I remember all these moments. I remember when I changed demographic groups in terms of television watching and then, in terms of insurance rates. When my gums started receding, when my gut started having so much guts that it didn't only come out at night. I remember becoming a teenager, exiting into my 20's, then my 30's. I remember turning 40 but I thought there would be time before I moved into the next and last phase of my life. I was looking forward to the good natured joking with friends as we started getting mail from the AARP, started computing our retirement savings and started arguing about Social Security but not in the abstract.

I thought there would be time. But alas, Dunkin Donuts, the final arbiter of all that is meaningful has called me to the next step and I am powerless to object.

But I didn't give back the nineteen cents. This old man isn't an idiot.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I don't count and not just because I don't know how

I don't like statistics very much. This is, for me, not much of a problem though I don't know exactly how much of a non-problem it is. I also hear that statistics doesn't like me so I feel justified.

I read the news this morning. The hour was early (or late, depending on your schedule) and I recall reading something which made the following claim: "But the broad movement in support of immigration reform has already won the public debate. Two of three Americans support comprehensive and common sense change..." That may not have been the exact article but the sentiment was the same.

I did some mental math, so already I was angry. As of...right...NOW...there are about 314 million people in the United States. Including me. That means that someone had to ask all 314 million of them in order to ascertain who was in favor of immigration reform. Now I know that my memory isn't the greatest, but I really, really don't recall ever having been asked out it. Sure, I get phone calls from research firms asking me about recent movies I have seen or my intake of non-prescription pain medication, but no one has asked me about immigration reform. And you know what? I don't know what I think about it so had they asked me, the ultimate statistic would have to have been altered to reflect that I don't have a firm opinion instead of the Boolean "support" or "don't support." It should have read "Two out of almost three Americans...and then there is this other guy who just isn't sure yet..." But that's not what it said. Clearly, they don't value me and what I have to say. So I have been excluded from the research and this, to my mind, invalidates the study.

I went online to check on this and found no fewer than 10 other current articles making claims about the knowledge or opinions of all Americans. Apparently, they know how much I am aware of health care reform and Small Business Saturday, where I was when Mandela was freed and how I feel about the recent nuclear pact with Iran. All without talking to me? That's a bit presumptuous, don't you think? Well, you should. All those studies? Invalid.

I know what you are going to say -- the researchers identified a sample audience which is a representative microcosm of the whole and extrapolated data from it. Man, you are arrogant and smug. And wrong. These articles don't say that. They don't say "out of a group of random Americans, X% believe that..." or "100 people surveyed -- top 5 answers on the board." The article says that this is a truth about the American people. I'm an American people. I was neither asked nor consulted. My opinion was assigned and not requested.

This is wrong, wrong I say. If newspapers want to know my opinion (and who wouldn't, right?) they need to ask me. Otherwise they do not have my permission to represent my stance on issues of current import. I would suggest that you all change your Facebook statuses to "I officially declare my independence from being statistically abstracted and refuse to allow those with their fingers on the pulse of the nation to touch my privacy parts" in order to protect your autonomy of thought and not have yourself lumped in with some group of mere commoners. I think that you can do that, by law.

So if you see an article which reads "3 out of 4 Americans surveyed believe that a 'nutritious breakfast' is a financial burden" you should know that either I was asked or that somewhere at the end of the article there will be the statement, "Clarification: We did NOT ask Dan so we don't know where he stands on this one."