It seemed like a good idea at the time. Joining AARP, I mean. AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons, an organization with millions upon millions of members. Once you reach 50 you're eligible to join, so I did. I figured the discounts for hotel rooms and rental cars alone would be worth it.
Besides I had read about how much clout AARP has in Washington. Nobody in congress dares mess with this huge, united group of people, an abnormally high percentage of whom shows up at the polls. (So why hasn't Congress been intimidated into fixing Social Security yet?)
Like I said, it seemed like a good idea. The problem is that once you become a member of AARP, you automatically become an old person. You start to feel old. To act old. To think old.
Stuff starts hurting that didn't hurt before. Horseshoes and shuffleboard start to look like fun. You begin to wonder why these young whippersnappers just don't have any respect anymore.
And that's not all. When you call hotel and rental car 800 numbers and tell them you're a member of AARP, they start to talk to you real loud and real slow. And I swear, I detect just a trace of condescension in their voices as they offer a meager 5-percent discount.
But the worst part of being in AARP is that you get a free subscription to a magazine called Modern Maturity. It's a nice magazine and all, but every two months when it arrives, you are reminded yet again that you have crossed the threshold into another dimension the World of the Old People.
The March-April 2000 issue of Modern Maturity, for example, had Paul McCartney on the cover. Yes, that Paul McCartney. The Beatle.
The November-December 1999 cover pitched an article inside called "10 Legal Moves You Need to Make Now." I couldn't even make myself look at it. I'm just not ready to lock in the wording on my tombstone.
Back when the September-October 1999 Modern Maturity arrived, I thought this issue might be different. A headline on the cover blared, "Great Sex: What's age got to do with it?" But en route to an article called "Who's Sexy Now: The 50 sexiest people over 50" a full-page ad screamed at me, "Could you have cataracts?" Another asked, "Is it just forgetfulness...or Alzheimer's disease?"
By the time I remembered what I was looking for and got to the article, I was prepared for the worst. I wasn't disappointed.
Guess who's over 50 now? Try Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Phylicia Rashad, Tom Selleck, Dolly Parton, and Bruce Springsteen. Oh yeah, and Tina Turner, who's 103.
Just today the latest issue of Modern Maturity arrived, May-June 2000. Besides articles on Paul Newman (who is looking really old these days) and long-term care insurance (should you buy it now or later?), the cover promoted a feature inside called "The 50 Best Places to Live."
At last, I thought, a Modern Maturity that would make me feel good. Payson and the Rim country would surely be among the 50 greatest places to live. Even though I ache all over, my vision is blurry and my thinking is a little fuzzy, at least I am living in the right place. Even if I can't remember where that is.
After all, hadn't Payson recently been ranked the 10th fastest growing place to retire by Jacksonville State University? And didn't USA Today just rate us the 25th most popular place for second homes? Well, guess what? Modern Maturity did it to me again.
The 50 cities the magazine named were placed in top 10 lists in five different categories: College Towns, Big Cities, Small Towns, Green & Clean and Quirky. Four Arizona towns made the grade in three of the categories, but Payson was not among them.
Flagstaff and Tucson were rated numbers seven and eight respectively on the Green & Clean list, Prescott was rated ninth for Small Towns, and Bisbee came in ninth for Quirky. Now I hate to belittle any of our fellow Arizona communities, but Prescott and Bisbee? PUHLEEEZE!
I could see Prescott in a category called Small Towns with Big Rush Hours, and I could see Bisbee ranked high among Towns Full of Old Hippies. But among the best places for AARP members to live? I don't think so.
Seems to me that the Rim country should have fared better. Lord knows, we're every bit as Quirky as the next community. And show me an area that is Greener & Cleaner.
Then it struck me the category we would have done best in wasn't included in the competition. There are two things around here that are especially plentiful we've got lots of cliffs (as in the Mogollon Rim) and we have more than our share of manure (as in open grazing and cowboy yarnspinning).
All we have to do is convince the Modern Maturity folks to add a new category next year: Steep & Deep.