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Getting Older

Average: 3.6 (12 votes)
Danny Danny's been teaching English at EC for 10 years.

“Hello, group. My name is Danny and I am thirty-seven years old. Very soon this year, I will be thirty-eight. And I have a problem. Apparently.”

“Good morning, Danny. What seems to be the problem?”

“Well, I was wondering if anyone else here is thirty-seven or thirty-eight? I need to… er… watch them…”

“Watch them? Why?”

“To see what they do.”

“We’re sorry. We don’t understand. See them doing what?”

“Er… I’m not sure. Just… stuff, I think. To see them doing what they do when they’re doing whatever it is they do…”

“We’re confused…”

“Uh-huh. Me too.”

***

Every morning, at approximately seven o’ clock, I leave the house and walk to work. It’s only twenty-five minutes away, and it’s a nice walk along a promenade which overlooks the sea. Sometimes the weather is quite chilly, sometimes it’s fairly warm, sometimes it’s pouring down with rain – but I walk to work either way. As I said, it’s a nice walk, and I enjoy it. Rain doesn’t bother me. It’s just water. Sometimes, I like to splash around in puddles. You get wet. Then later, you get dry.

I also walk back from work at the end of the day.

“Wow!” say my friends, enthusiastically. “Good for you! That’s really healthy! You keep in shape, and really burn calories, and…”

Not really. It’s not a health thing for me. I walk along puffing on a cigarette as herds of early-morning joggers swerve around me and overtake. They don’t look like they’re having fun. Red faces, gasping in lungfuls of air, with a look of something akin to despair in their eyes. I haven’t seen a single one of them smile as they jog past…

Basically, I walk because I can.

***

“Excuse me?”

“Uh-huh?”

“Why are you telling us this?”

“I’m setting the scene. I’m building up to it.”

“Only we’d like to get back to our meeting now…”

“This is the meeting. Now be quiet and listen…”

***

The other day, I woke up earlier than usual. As a result, I left the house earlier than usual, and so I decided to take a slightly longer route to work. Turned right instead of left. This gave me a couple of hundred extra metres of promenade to walk along, a slightly different view of the horizon to lose myself in, and an extra cigarette to smoke. There were just as many insane joggers to dodge, tumbling breathlessly towards me in outfits of tight-fitting neon spandex that they really ought to have thought twice about before putting on. And then kept on thinking about until eventually deciding to take them off and set fire to them, thereby making the world a slightly better place.

There were also a large number of tour promoters, spread out along the promenade, handing out colourful brochures advertising harbour cruises, sight-seeing tours on open-top buses and the like, along with big cheesy smiles and hearty ‘good morning sirs!’ After patiently explaining for the fifth time that I lived here and wasn’t a tourist, I gave up and started collecting every brochure that was thrust under my nose. When I reached a corner, I stopped and spent an entertaining ten minutes handing them all out to passing joggers, who snatched them as they panted by. In some cases, I offered them a fifty percent discount…

***

“Why on earth did you do that?”

“It was funny.”

“It was silly.”

“Sometimes funny is silly. Incidentally, how old are you?”

“Thirty-seven.”

“Ah. I see…”

***

Eventually I came to a children’s playground. I still had plenty of time, and I hadn’t swung on a swing or gone down a slide for ages, so I followed the stairs down to the playground, climbed up the slide and whizzed down. Then I chose a sturdy-looking swing, and spent the next fifteen minutes seeing how high I could go…

***

“Er… excuse me?”

“Again? Yes?”

“Don’t you think that was a bit childish?”

“Er… no. I think it was a bit childlike.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No. No, it’s not. But go on…”

“Well, don’t you think you should act your age?”

“Aha!”

“Huh? Aha? Aha what?”

“That’s my problem, you see. I’m not sure how to act thirty-seven. I don’t know how a thirty-seven year old should act.”

“Well, you shouldn’t slide down slides and swings on swings in a children’s playground, for a start… Or splash around in puddles, for that matter…”

“Why not? It’s fun.”

“But it’s childish. Or childlike, if you prefer…”

“I had a great time when I was a child!”

“Well, so did I. But when you become an adult you should stop…”

“… having fun?”

“Yes. Er… no. Er… look. You’re an adult. You have to act responsibly…”

“I do act responsibly. I had to act responsibly when I was a child too. I had to dry the dishes, and look after my little brother, and behave if I wanted pocket money…”

“That’s not the same.”

“Not now, maybe. But it was back then.”

“Listen. There comes a point where we have to grow up. What kind of world would it be if everyone acted like that?”

“A happier one?”

“You’re missing the point.”

“I’m sorry, but I think you’re missing the point. Where does it say that, when we reach a certain age, we have to stop doing all those things we used to do because we enjoyed doing them? You tell me to act my age, but what I hear is ‘be sad with me’. I don’t have to act my age… I am my age. It’s not an act. It’s life. And I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.”

“But what will others think!”

“It doesn’t matter. Because I know what I think, and what I think is that life’s too short to stop doing things because you can, and only start doing things because you have to, or because others think you should. And, while we’re on the subject, life’s also too short for this meeting. So I apologise for gate-crashing it, and… I’m off…”

***

And I walked home. I even jogged a little, but that didn’t last long, because it wasn’t much fun - maybe it can only be done in spandex. So I had a cigarette instead, as I watched a couple of tourists arguing with a tour-promoter about how some other company was offering a fifty-percent discount for the same tour. And then I splashed around in some puddles… I got wet. And then I got dry.

All in all, I had a nice day.

How about you?

By Danny, teacher at EC Malta English School