Tuesday, February 21, 2006

...The Aging Process

Even though I have certain grown-up responsibilities like a house payment, car payment, partial ownership of a small business and a 1 ½ year old son, I don’t generally think of myself as old. Statistically speaking, barring some major catastrophe or unforeseen illness, I still have far more life ahead of me than behind me. Physically, I’m in far better shape today than I was in the “prime” of my life. I spent much of my late teens and early 20s as a regular smoker and in my first few years following college graduation a combination of lack of exercise, bad eating habits and a slowing metabolism caused me to get a little fat. It’s only been within the past 6 or 7 years I’ve really been good about eating healthy, not smoking and exercising regularly.

Still, every now and again I have an experience that reminds me I’m not as young as I like to think.

Yesterday my wife and I were sitting in front of a gas station, the designated halfway point where we were to drop off a friend of my younger stepson from our old neighborhood back to his mother. As we were watching people walk in and out of the attached mini-mart, my wife was commenting on how you know someone is trashy when they go to a gas station for the sole purpose of buying an individual tall boy beer. I was all set to agree with her, until I remembered how in college, when finances were always an issue, my friends and I would buy 40 ouncers quite regularly because they were pretty cheap and you could drink two or three of them and be all set for the night. It must have been the sentimentalist in me, but talking about those memories made me have an intense craving for an Olde English 800, my drink of choice back in those days. I walked into the gas station with the intention of buying 2, since I was sure I would need at least that many to catch any whiff of a buzz, but decided to be more responsible since I still had to pay bills and take out the trash before the day was over, so I only bought 1.

I started in on my drinking as soon as I sat down to pay bills, thinking it might make me feel slightly less depressed about the process of watching my checking account slowly deflate. About a quarter of the way through the bottle I had to confess – I was pretty drunk. Four hours later I was still struggling to finish the whole thing (I wanted to make sure I got my full $2.29 worth), taking the final few gulps while already lying in bed.

This morning I didn’t need any alarm to wake me up – the massive headache that felt as if someone was living inside my head hammering at my eyeballs was enough to do that on its own. If I didn’t have an appointment this afternoon that would be difficult to reschedule because of a business trip to Arizona I’m leaving on tomorrow I would have definitely considered calling in sick. On my drive in I kept looking over at an empty Starbucks cup and wondering exactly how much vomit it would hold if traffic were bad enough to where I couldn’t get off the freeway in time.

All the time I couldn’t help but think, “All this misery just from one beer”. I mean, I realize college is where people tend to do their heaviest drinking and thus is generally the period in which they build up their highest tolerance to alcohol. I remember once doing 14 kamikaze shots in one night with my roommate, a feat impressive enough that an alumnus who was in town starting buying our shots for us he was so blown away by the fact we were still upright.

I don’t expect to be able to drink like that anymore; obviously that would just mean I was a drunk. But I used to be able to go through several 40 ouncers a night and still make it up in time for World Lit without looking the worse for it. It was quite the shock to realize I can no longer even have 1 without a major hangover. What can I say – I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.
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