Saturday, July 30, 2022

Forgot to Remember to Take Photos

Lately I’ve noticed that I rarely pull out my smartphone and take photos. For example, my wife and I will spend the day visiting friends, and then when we return home we’ll ask each other, “Did you take any pictures?” and the answer is usually no. Sometimes I’ll look at my phone and my answer will be, “Um, I did take one blurry photo of my sneakers — but that was by accident when I was checking the weather app.”

At work, I’m supposed to take lots of photos of interesting things our company is involved in, and then post the pictures to LinkedIn. Quite often I have to visit construction sites, which is the perfect opportunity to snap some photos of the HVAC equipment we provide. When I’m on the roofs of commercial buildings, sometimes the skyline of Hartford is in the background with our equipment in the foreground — a fantastic photo-op. 
So, do I remember to, as the old Kodak commercial said, “Preserve the moment in pictures”? Of course not. When I get back to the office, someone will ask me, “Did you get any good photos?” and I’ll look at my phone and reply, “Um, I did take one blurry photo of my work boots — but that was by accident when I was checking the Red Sox score.”

I think the reason it never dawns on me to take a lot of photographs until after the fact is because I came of age during a time when every single person in the country did NOT have a high quality camera with unlimited storage capacity in his or her pocket at all times. (Well, I don’t mean EVERY single person in the country. There still are a few infants in certain rural regions who have yet to be given smartphones by their parents.)

When I was growing up, taking photos was cumbersome and expensive. Every family had one person who was known as the “camera guy,” and we all trusted that he would take photos at the various family events. Sometimes he would really splurge and take upwards of seven shots! “Whoa, whatja win the lottery and spend it all on film?!” we would ask incredulously.

However, today’s teens and young adults grew up with cell phone cameras and social media, so it’s instinctive for them to take upwards of 700 shots at important events — such as when they’re eating Cocoa Puffs for breakfast. If there actually are other people present, well, then they might click off 7,000 photos.
The only time I always remember to pull out my phone and take photos is when I’m with my grandson. To paraphrase a Jim Gaffigan joke, my 2-year-old grandson has had more photos taken of him than the entire number of times my father looked at me during his life.

Even though my smartphone has enough memory to store either 9 million photos or 100 complete Hollywood movies, I’m quickly filling up the phone with snapshots and videos of the Rhode Island Wonder Boy™. 

I need to find a better balance. Instead of holding up my smartphone and filming for 90% of the time when I’m with my grandson, and zero-percent of the time when I’m at a jobsite with a fantastic photo-op staring me in the face, I should back off a little on the Wonder Boy™ chronicles and take one or two snapshots while on the roof.
Or when I return to the office and realize I did not take any jobsite photos, I can alway do a Google Image search and post one of those pictures. And if someone thinks it looks odd, I’ll say, “Didn’t you know the Hartford skyline looks a lot like Hong Kong?”

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Go Ahead: Do What You Love!

 There’s an old saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

This axiom is mentioned often at graduation ceremonies, as older people try to impart some wisdom on younger people — who most of the time aren’t paying attention. When I was a young graduate decades ago, we had to work hard at not paying attention to the speaker, a technique we perfected during four years of classroom lectures. But nowadays, the graduates don’t even have to work hard because they can just watch Tik Tok videos on their smartphones and drown out the “blah blah blah” coming from the stage.

Anyway, that old expression makes the point that if your occupation is something you love doing, then going to work each day will not be a chore. Instead it will be something you look forward to and enjoy.
Well, that’s great advice, as long as you happen to love loading heavy boxes onto delivery trucks all day long, or selling life insurance to people who don’t want to talk to you, or getting yelled at by angry customers because they ordered the wrong item (and somehow it’s YOUR fault!) and therefore they have no intention of paying their invoice and you can just go pound sand, pal!

Yeah, I’m not sure there are many people who LOVE to do those things. 

Years ago, I took this advice and tried to “do what I love” and therefore “not work a day in my life.” Except what I loved to do was watch sports on TV, eat Fritos, and drink beer. I really enjoyed those activities immensely, so much so that it didn’t seem like work at all. But there was one slight problem: no one was willing to pay me to do it. 
So, when the rent and the car payments came due — which seemed to happen on a fairly regular basis — I was forced to go to a local warehouse and load boxes. And later for a brief and painful time, I tried to sell life insurance. Then finally, I found a career in the HVAC industry where a sizable part of my day, it seems, is spent getting yelled at by angry customers.  
After four decades, I can honestly say I now enjoy many aspects of my career, but when I go to work each day, it definitely feels like I’m going to a job. That “never work a day in your life” concept is nowhere in sight.

I’m not sure which occupations/professions fall into the “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” category. Certainly, there are careers that people describe as their life-long dream: education, medicine, law enforcement, etc. But if you ask even the most professionally satisfied teacher, doctor, or police officer whether they “never work a day in their life,” they’re going to stare at you incredulously and then suggest that you steer clear of the local cannabis dispensary for a while.

And don’t forget, what people “love” changes over time. For example, I now love to watch sports on TV, eat Fritos, and drink diet Fresca. That is totally different compared to when I was young.
So, that old expression should be something like, “Do what you love — in your spare time — and you’ll never get evicted or have your car repossessed.”

In today’s economy, that’s about as good as we can hope for. And during graduation ceremonies, I bet if the commencement speaker proclaims this new and modified axiom, it will cause the young people to look up from their smartphones and ask, “Wait. What did he just say?”

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

‘National Eucharistic Revival’ Needed More Than Ever

Last month the U.S. Catholic bishops launched a 3-year campaign called the “National Eucharistic Revival.” The purpose of this new program is to re-awaken among Catholics the meaning and critical importance of the Eucharist.

You may remember news reports a few years ago about a survey of American Catholics that found a full 70-percent do not believe the historic Church teaching about the Eucharist. From the very beginning of Christianity 2,000 years ago, the Church has clearly taught that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist — body, blood, soul, and divinity.
Unlike what some groups claim, the Church did not develop the doctrine of the Real Presence many centuries after Jesus’ earthly ministry. The doctrine was proclaimed by Jesus Himself in the “Bread of Life” discourse, which is recorded in John’s gospel, chapter 6.

Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

Then, after the people listening to Jesus grumbled at His shocking words, Jesus double-downed on his stunning message by declaring: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:54-56).

So, of all the Church doctrines, the Real Presence should be the least controverial. It came right from the mouth of Jesus. There should be no debate, since the Lord could not have been more clear: His body and blood are really, truly, no kidding, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die PRESENT in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. 

And yet, 70-percent of American Catholics think the Eucharist is just symbolic; that is, the bread and wine only represent Jesus’ body and blood, but are not actually transformed at Mass. It’s all just a very nice and sweet and symbolic gesture. 

Nope. That’s not what Jesus said. And that’s not what the Church has taught. Not even close. Jesus made it very clear that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. He did not say we need to do a little play-acting, which will give us warm, fuzzy feelings. He clearly said we have to EAT His flesh and DRINK His blood so that we can live forever.
Well, how can this be? Easy. As Christians, we believe that miracles happen. (“Miracle” being defined as something outside the normal laws of nature.) We believe God created the heavens and the earth. That’s a miracle. We believe Jesus died but then rose from the dead. Another miracle. So, why is it such a big deal to believe that God can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ? Just another wonderful miracle.

The modern world has become so secularized, or so jaded about Church authority, that we’ve reached the point where seven out of 10 Catholics do not believe one of the most important teachings Jesus ever offered: that mere bread and wine are transformed into His real body and blood, and that we need to partake of this miracle to be in communion with Him.

So, without a doubt, this is the perfect time for the bishops to initiate a special program that emphasizes the Church’s teaching — er, I mean, Jesus’ teaching — on the Eucharist.

And this is a good time to mention that this year’s Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference also will focus on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This year’s theme is “God Is With Us!”, which is exactly what the Eucharist is: God in the flesh truly with us, present on the altar during every Mass.

It’s not too early to mark your calendars. The Men’s Conference this year will be on Saturday, September 24th, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s a new location this year: Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford. As usual, the guest speakers will be terrific, and this year an old favorite is back: Fr. Larry Richards. Fr. Larry is one of the most dynamic and entertaining speakers I’ve ever heard, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about the Eucharist.
There will be good food, good fellowship, Eucharistic adoration, Confession, and the concluding Mass celebrated by Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair.

So, mark your calendar and go online and purchase tickets. It will be a great day. And in the meantime, get involved with your parish’s “National Eucharistic Revival” activities. The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains. The Eucharist is really Jesus, in the flesh. And we need to know it, love it, and live it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Spiritual Wisdom from ‘The Godfather’?

Recently I read an interesting essay by Fr. Raymond de Souza, a regular contributor to the National Catholic Register. The title of the piece was “Spiritual Wisdom From ‘The Godfather.’” Many aspects of the Catholic faith appear in this epic tale about a family of brutal gangsters. The novel is great, and the movie is certainly fascinating and well-made, and it regularly appears near the top of “all-time best movie” lists. Personally, I watch the film at least once every three years or so, just because it’s so riveting.

After reading Fr. de Souza’s article, I’m really not sure there is any spiritual wisdom in the film, but I started to wonder what the heavenly perspective would be if that story really happened. If the Godfather saga actually occurred, here is how things might have played out before the Judgment Seat of God:

First, Luca Brasi is garroted to death while pretending he’s interested in going to work for Virgil Sollozzo. Moments later Brasi’s soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant murderer. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”

Soon afterward, Paulie Gatto is executed for setting up the failed hit on Vito Corleone, the Godfather. (This is the scene with my favorite line: “Leave the gun. Take the cannolis.”) Paulie’s soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant murderer. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”

A few days later, Virgil Sollozzo is shot to death by Michael Corleone in a quiet restaurant. The Turk’s soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant murderer. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”

A moment later, Police Captain Mark McCluskey also is shot by Michael, and his soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant crooked cop. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”

Sometime later, Santino “Sonny” Corleone is ambushed at a toll booth and riddled with bullets. His soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant murderer. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”
A few years after that, enjoying semi-retirement from the “family business,” Vito Corleone dies of a heart attack while tending to his tomato plants. His soul appears before God, who says, “During your life on earth, you were a faithless, unrepentant murderer. Therefore, you must spend eternity in the lonely torment of Hell.”

By the way, are you noticing a pattern here?

Not long after this, in quick succession, the following people die: Moe Greene (shot through the eye while laying on a massage table); Phillip Tattaglia (shot in a hotel room); Emilo Barzini (shot by Al Neri, who posed as a cop); Sal Tessio (killed for plotting Michael’s assassination); and Carlo Rizzi (garroted by Clemenza for setting up the hit on Sonny).

In each case, God repeats the same statement to the doomed souls. Then St. Peter turns to the Lord, shakes his head, and says, “What is it with these people? They all went to church and heard the Gospel message, but completely ignored it!”

From the perspective of Heaven, the compelling saga of the Corleone empire is anything but fascinating and riveting. It’s actually quite boring: many people are given the opportunity to embrace the love of God, but reject Him and instead follow their own twisted moral code. The result is a lot of violence and pain during their natural lives, and then eternal agony once their time on earth is over.
By the way, the real damning sin here is the lack of faith and repentance. Murder, of course, is a horrible sin, but it’s the result of a faithless life, which denies God as Creator and therefore has no respect for human life.

Well, I still think “The Godfather” is an entertaining movie. But I don’t think it offers much “spiritual wisdom.” If anything, it offers a spiritual warning. If we do not repent and believe the Good News, our eternal souls will be in jeopardy. After all, our heavenly Father makes us an offer we can’t, or at least shouldn’t, refuse. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Just Say ‘Um, No’ to Camping

Last week I discussed a recent conversation I had with my daughter. After telling her a humorous story about an ill-fated camping trip when my wife and I were in our 20s, she asked how we knew anything back before the Internet. The short answer is: we didn’t know anything. And if we had been able to do an online search for, “What camping gear do we need?” we would’ve discovered that proper camping gear is more expensive than a week’s stay at the Waldorf Astoria, and made the decision to stay home.

After that column appeared in the newspaper, I received some feedback, the general gist of which was: “So tell us the details of your camping trip.”
Ugh, do I have to? (A quick word count reveals that I still have to write 500 more words to complete this column, so I guess the answer is yes, I have to.)

OK, fine. Back when my wife and I were newlyweds in the early 1980s, a guy I played softball with told me he and his wife and another couple were going camping. They invited us to join them. I said, “We’ve never camped before. Do you have enough room in your tent for us, too?” 

He replied, “Um, probably.”

That was the moment when two major mistakes were made. First, my friend should not have answered me right away and instead should have paused and envisioned what it would be like trying to squeeze six people in his tent. If he had thought about it and concluded, “Um, no,” rather than saying, “Um, probably,” a lot of frustration could have been avoided. I would’ve said, “OK, see you next week at softball,” and continued my journey on earth blissfully unaware of what it feels like to wake up in a pool of mud.

The second major mistake was made by me. I can be rather gullible at times, but looking back, I am stunned that I actually interpreted his, “Um, probably,” to mean something like: “Sure! We’ve got a Winnebago that sleeps ten! And air-conditioning! And cable TV! And a walk-in freezer!” 

Well, maybe that wasn’t exactly how I interpreted his reply. But I should’ve said something along the lines of, “Um, no. I think I’ll spend the night in my comfortable, dry, and completely mud-less bed. See you next week at softball.”
Now, because I knew these guys through softball, and because it’s a softball tradition to drink a beer every time something important happens, such as whenever a player scratches himself, let’s just say we had plenty of brewskis on hand when we arrived at the campsite. This made me far less observant than I should’ve been. As the evening rolled merrily along, with lots of laughter and S’mores, I didn’t notice that his tent was so tiny it would be a struggle for four people to fit, let alone six. My wife, however, did notice, and at about 11 pm said to me, “So, where are we supposed to sleep?”

I asked my friend about it, and he said, “Oh yeah, no problem. I’ll take the fiberglass cover off the back of my Jeep and you guys can sleep under it.”

That’s when I should’ve said what he should’ve said the previous day: “Um, no.”

Instead, we gave it a try. Just as we dozed off, around midnight, it started raining. That’s when my wife and I looked at each other and said in unison: “Um, no.” We took our muddy selves and our muddy blanket, climbed into our car, and drove home. 

I’m sure you’re wondering: was that the last time I ever made a foolish decision regarding camping? Um, no. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

‘How Did You Know Anything?’

Recently, my wife and I were visiting one of our daughters and her family, and we told them a humorous story about a camping trip we went on in the early 1980s. (It’s humorous now, but it wasn’t so funny back then when we were completely ill-prepared and then it started pouring rain around midnight.)

After telling the story, my daughter sincerely asked, “How did you KNOW anything back then?”

We weren’t quite sure what she meant. She explained, “Back in those days, if you wanted to go camping, you couldn’t do an online search for, ‘What camping gear do we need?’ So, how did you know how to prepare for something you never did before?”
My wife and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. That’s a good question. How did we know anything back before the Internet? Or, more specifically, how did we acquire new information quickly? I’m assuming we knew SOMETHING back then, but most likely it was something useless at that moment. For example, if the question at hand was, “What camping gear do we need?” it doesn’t really help to reply, “I don’t know, but I do know that Millard Fillmore was president from 1850 to 1853.”

An important source of information was the local library. Even back then I preferred making stuff up (you know, like this weekly column) rather than doing time-consuming research. But in high school I did have to go to the library occasionally because I had to write research papers, after discovering the hard way that making up the details of Millard Fillmore’s time in the White House did not impress my 11th grade History teacher. (On the other hand, my version, complete with Ninjas warriors and laser beams, was much more interesting.)
Back in the pre-Internet days, the best way to learn something specific was to ask someone who happened to be an expert in that field. I had a buddy who knew how to fix washing machines, and another friend who used to work for a carpenter and knew everything about power tools. Also, a guy I went to school with had an uncle who lived next door to a lady whose cousin was a doctor, so my college buddy was our go-to person for medical advice.

Back then, I had a friend who was an expert about camping. And no, he did not advise me to go camping with just a blanket and no tent. I tried to call him before our adventure, but there was no answer. (He was probably camping.) Don’t forget, in addition to no Internet, there were no cell phones back then either, so I couldn’t send him a text or leave a voice message.

If I had been able to reach my camping friend and tell him our plans, he might have warned me that, “Um, probably,” is not a trustworthy answer when you ask a person, “Do you have enough room in your tent for us, too?” (Turns out this other friend who invited us did not have room — not even close. And it turns out one blanket and a package of marshmallows is not even close to being a complete set of camping gear for two people.)
So, getting back to the question our daughter asked us: how did we KNOW anything before the Internet existed? I finally smiled at my daughter and said, “To be honest, honey, we actually didn’t know anything back then. And down through the years, we’ve worked very hard to keep you and your sister from realizing just how little we knew.” 

In reply, she nodded her head and said, “I already knew that. I looked it up on the Internet.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Faith Is Like a Checkerboard

Have you noticed that some people who go to church are often indistinguishable nowadays compared to people who never go to church? That is, the way they live their lives is just as sinful and self-centered as people who don’t believe in God and therefore have no higher power to answer to.

The reason this happens is because of a concept called “compartmentalization.” This is the ability to put ideas and activities into separate compartments. 
I like to think of it in terms of a checkerboard. Imagine that your life is like a huge checkerboard. Each square represents a different facet of your life. There’s your work square, your family square, your kids square, and your house square. There are separate squares for your hobbies, books, movies, political views, sports teams, etc. 

Each item, each activity, has its own separate square on the checkerboard of your life. And down in the lower corner of the checkerboard is a square called “faith” or “religion.”

Whenever you are on a particular square—that is, inside a particular compartment—you focus only on that particular activity. When you’re dealing with your kids, you are on your “parent” square and you assume your parenting role and duties. When you are at the office or shop, you are on your “job” square and you assume the role of worker.

And when it’s Sunday morning and you are at church, you are on your faith or religion square, and for that hour or so you focus on faith and religious ideas. But as soon as you leave church, you move from your religion square to a different square and you leave behind all the ideas, values, and underlying beliefs of religious faith.

Personally, I’m an expert at compartmentalization. I struggle constantly with this issue. I can go to Mass on Sunday morning and sincerely pray, “Yes, Jesus, I love you and I want to serve you and do your will.” But then on Monday morning I can go to work and behave just as rudely and crudely as anyone else in the office. Since I’m not on my faith square on Mondays, faith is not a factor. 
For many years it never occurred to me that I was being hypocritical. Since I was not on my faith square during the work week, the various aspects and values of faith just didn’t apply. (Now at least I realize I’m being hypocritical, but it’s still a struggle.)

It’s important that we understand that faith is not simply a single square on the checkerboard of our lives. Faith is the entire checkerboard itself. A relationship with God must be the foundation that supports all the other squares of our lives.

So it’s not just work, family, kids, home. Instead it should be faith-work, faith-family, faith-kids, faith-home. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, then it’s true every day of the week, not just on Sundays.

Speaking of Jesus, the beginning of John’s gospel says, “Through him all things were made.” It says ALL things, not just Sunday morning religious things.

In Acts 10:36, the Bible describes Jesus as “Lord of all.” He is the Lord of ALL of creation, not just the Lord of personal, internal, subjective feelings one hour per week.
The idea that Jesus is the Lord of everything is a monumental proclamation. Many people do indeed understand and accept that Jesus is the Lord of all—but they understand and accept it only on Sunday morning. Once they leave church and move on to a different checkerboard square, they quickly lose sight of this fact.

So, please don’t consider your faith life as merely one of many squares on your life’s checkerboard. Faith is the entire board. Faith should be the foundation of every aspect of your life.

If more of us are able to live this way and avoid the compartmentalization mindset, then the goodness and honesty of people who go to church will stand out compared to those who have no faith. And wouldn’t that be a nice change? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Are You Still Catholic?

Raise your hand if you’ve had someone say this to you recently: “You’re still Catholic? Really? After all the Church scandals?”

Well, in my case, the answer is simple. Yeah, I’m still Catholic, despite all the Church scandals. In a way, you could say I’m still Catholic BECAUSE of all the Church scandals. Let me explain.
One of the key doctrines of Christianity is that people are sinful. St. Paul could not have been more clear in his epistle to the Romans: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And when Paul wrote “all,” he meant ALL, y’all.

Because every human being was born with the stain of original sin (except Jesus, if you’re Protestant; and except Jesus and Mary, if you’re Catholic), mankind desperately needs a Savior. It’s the basic story of Salvation history: 1) God created the world good. 2) Things went bad because of sin. 3) Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross. 4) If we put our faith in Him, we will be forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven.

It’s quite a spectacular and exciting saga. It’s the classic “good-bad-good” structure of some of the most compelling stories in literature and film. But in this case, of course, the tale of Salvation history is not a fable; it’s what actually happened in human history.

A key part of this amazing story is step #2, the fact that God’s good creation went bad because of sin. Can anybody really deny this? The history of humanity on this planet is a tragic narrative written in blood. Think of the relatively brief existence of our nation, and the history books we read (or didn’t read) in school. Most of the key milestones are wars: Revolutionary, Civil, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, etc. It seems that trying to kill our fellow man is all we do.

By the way, a lot of people nowadays claim the Church’s emphasis on sin is harmful. They say people are basically good, and once in a while someone will do a bad thing. However, reality is pretty clear: people are basically selfish, and once in a while someone will do a good thing. 
I’m certainly not trying to be negative. I’m not trying to insult humanity as a bunch of sinful losers. But have you been paying attention to the news lately? Things are not going all that well. And it’s not because people are overly kind to each other. Just sayin’.

So, the Church scandals during the past couple of decades prove a key Christian doctrine: people are sinful and need a Savior. Now, am I saying that I’m glad so many leaders of the church committed horrible crimes against children, and that far too many bishops and cardinals act like narcissistic and power-hungry politicians? No, of course not. Each one of these crimes inflicts terrible damage on the victim and does great harm to the Church’s divine mission.

The bottom line is this: I’m not about to stop being Catholic because some Church leaders turned out to be creeps, anymore than I’m about to renounce my U.S. citizenship because some politicians turned out to be creeps.

The Church is a fallible institution, precisely because it’s populated with imperfect people. But the message the Church proclaims IS perfect: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The world needs the Church, more than ever these days. That’s because the world needs the Good News. The world needs to know the amazing good-bad-good saga of Salvation history. The world needs Jesus, and the Church has been the institution that has been spreading that message for 2,000 years. 

The Church is not perfect, but the Gospel message is. And that’s why, yeah, I’m still Catholic. Despite all her faults, I’m sticking with the Church that Jesus founded. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Getting Too Old for This [Stuff]!

For the last four or five years, I’ve occasionally said in jest, “I’m too old for this stuff!” (Sometimes I substitute a different word instead of “stuff.” If you remember Danny Glover in the “Lethal Weapon” movies, you know what I mean.)
For example, whenever my wife and I return from a trip to the grocery store, as we start carrying the bags into the house, I’ll smile and say, “Wow, I’m getting too old for this.” Then I continue to haul the rest of the bags in without a problem. (Even though the bags are heavy, you would think the way a visit to the grocery store lightens my wallet nowadays, weight-wise it would be a wash. Just sayin’.)

A couple of weeks ago I had to visit an office building and conduct a maintenance training session for the facilities staff. We usually spend time in a conference room going through the operations and maintenance manual. And then we inspect the actual HVAC equipment we’ve just discussed, either in the mechanical room or on the roof. To get to the roof, many commercial buildings have a stairway up to a penthouse, and then you walk through a normal door and you’re on the roof. Easy peasy.

However, this particular building had only one way onto the roof, a metal ladder with round iron rungs going straight up about 20 feet to a hatch on the roof. When I got to the top, the only thing to hold onto while scrambling out through the hatch was a wobbly little rail. As I stepped onto the roof, into the sunny 90 degree weather, I could feel sweat forming on my forehead.
The roof was coated with a white weather-proofing material, and I didn’t bring sunglasses, so I couldn’t really see anything as I stumbled away from the hatch to let the next guy come through. I playfully exclaimed, “I’m too old for this stuff.”

Then I discovered that the equipment we needed to inspect was on a raised area, about five feet above the main roof. One of the maintenance guys said, “I forgot to get a step ladder. Everybody’s OK with just climbing up there, right?” 

Oh, did I mention that the oldest maintenance guy present was about 35? 

I don’t remember the last time I climbed over a five foot high wall, but it probably was when I was around 20 and I’m sure it was no problem. So now, 45 years later, it still should be easy, right? Yeah, no.

Putting both of my hands on the top of the wall, I lifted myself and swung a leg up. I succeeded in getting my leg up on top. And that’s as far as I got. I was suspended there, laying on the edge of this structure with one leg sprawled across the top and the other leg dangling down toward the main roof. I grunted, “Little help, please,” and one of the other guys grabbed my belt and shoved me up. I rolled over onto my back, like a stranded turtle, except turtles don’t usually hurt a hip by rolling onto the car keys in their pocket.
As I laid there for a moment, with the sun blinding me, my hip throbbing, and sweat filling my eyes, I blurted out that comment, but this time without any shred of playfulness: “I’m too old for this [stuff]!”

The good news is, after the training session was over, I made it down in one piece. The other good news is, since the stock market turned my 401k into a 201k, I only have to do this for 14 more years before I can afford to retire. Nice!