What the Mail Brung

I love checking the mail… aways have. It doesn’t hold the allure it once did. Way back in those bygone days when people still wrote letters, the mailbox held potential treasure six days a week. All that stood between me and a decadent life I always dreamed of was a lowered red flag and that metallic “thwunk” of the door.

Maybe a long-lost uncle found me! “You may already be a winner!” says Ed McMahon and if anyone is trustworthy, it’s Ed McMahon! Yes sir, Mr. McMahon – I will play your stamp games and subscribe to seven magazines which are offered to me at a substantial discount from cover price! Columbia House wants to send me eleven record albums for a penny? Where do I sign?

Those days are sadly gone. But I still hold a fool’s notion that one day, in between the junk mail and bills, there will be a letter that changes everything. I have no idea what I’m expecting and I wish I could adequately describe the anticipation. My mailbox experience almost always falls short – except on those glorious days when we get a letter from Zimbabwe where our friend, Clarance lives. Those are good days.

On the first day of October, it brought a new sensation. It started innocuously – a letter addressed to me had “Happy Birthday” printed on the bottom corner. Of course, that piqued my interest because I have one coming at the end of the month. The big 5-0! I’m not caught up on the number. It always feels strange to enter a new decade, but besides some knee pain and pesky ear hair, I’m faring pretty well. And it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t, it’s still coming.

This letter felt so warm and personal but instead brought something strange and terrible. I had barely shut the little black door when my life hit a new low as I contemplated my potential induction into the AARP.

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Let me be clear – retirement isn’t on the horizon. In fact, I can’t even see the horizon for all the tuition payments and wedding bills ahead of me. So this offer seemed utterly ridiculous. When I reached the kitchen table I rolled through a textbook case of the five stages of grief right in front of my kids who laughed incessantly.

Denial: Surely not! Retirement age is 67, isn’t it? A quick check online told me that I can enjoy all the benefits of membership now… Ugh.

Anger: How do they know? Where did they get my data? Probably Equifax. Everybody has everything now. My anger has been further exacerbated by the fact that solicitations to join now pop up in my Facebook feed.

Bargaining: I’m not really retirement age. They’re just trying to expand their base by letting us younger pups in early. This is a marketing ploy, nothing more. After all, I’ve been getting VFW letters for year.

Depression: I’m getting so old. Seriously, how can I have lived half a decade? There can’t be much gas left in the tank. Better make sure my affairs are in order.

Acceptance: Hey, maybe there are discounts!

 

The unanswered card still sits on my vanity. It looks festive and inviting but I can’t bring myself to send it back. I could always use a sporty tote – but the fellas will give me grief about the AARP monogram. And I like Denny’s as much as the next guy, but do I have to eat dinner before 5 pm for the 10% off? While discounts are nice, on some level I feel like whipping out your AARP card is akin to using coupons on a date.

I’m so torn…

Hey, is indecision is a sign of old age?

 

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Andre Doesn’t Like to Drink Alone

Everything is about connections. Most jobs come through networks, not job postings. It was through my fraternity friendships that I got hired as a third-shift security officer for a posh hotel during college. I was not a match for this job. Yes, I was big and strong having just returned from Army service. I could have man-handled most guests if the need arose. That was not the issue. My pea-sized brain paired with a lackadaisical work ethic combined to be the problem. I worked about three nights a week and did the minimum required before I handed the keys off to the morning guys.

The cool thing about this job was that when famous people passed through Lexington, they usually stayed at this hotel. Besides the rock stars, most were asleep before I clocked in. But I still got my share of brushes with the rich and famous. And on one strange night, I had a beer with Andre the Giant.

It happened in the late 80’s when Wrestlemania made its way to town.

The job’s nightly routine started with an hour of surveillance around the grounds. While I poked around I discovered that my favorite bartender, Lucy, was on duty. Lucy was a beautiful law student who was completely immune to my charms. The whole time I worked there I never gave up flirting and the whole time I worked there I never learned more than her name was Lucy and that she was a law student. Her immunity ran deep.

After I finished my rounds, I went straight back to the bar to talk to Lucy. What I found was Andre the Giant perched on a chair laughing with three drunk business men. There was no mistaking him. He was HUGE. He held a mug of beer in his hand like I would hold a plastic child’s cup. Seriously, the thing disappeared in his oversized mitt.

Andre The Giant

My first thought was about what would happen if he became belligerent. What would I do?

I was 6’, 3” and about 200 lbs.           Andre? 7’, 4”, about 500 lbs.

What I would do? I would run! I was looking for a job when I found this one.

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“Hi Lucy,” I said as a sidled up to the bar. “Everything okay?”

“Everything’s great,” she replied in her usual dismissive manner.

“What are these for,” I asked as I noticed three room keys lined up on the bar.

“He had those guys put them there before they started drinking. He’s had thirty-six beers and they’ve had about six each.”

Thirty-six! You heard it right. Andre the Giant’s beer-drinking held no equals and few limits. I later learned that he was unofficially crowned “the greatest drunk on Earth” for once consuming 119 beers in six hours. Thirty-six was barely a buzz.

We immediately understood his key methodology as one of the businessmen slid off his stool into a heap. Andre had done this before.

“That’s number two,” Andre laughed as he reached down and lifted the man with little exertion. He must have seen my name badge because he handed the man off to me, grabbed a key from the bar, and said, “Be careful with him and come back. Andre doesn’t like to drink alone.”

I helped the drunk to his room and returned to find the next ready for escort and then the next. After I had deposited the third, it was me, Lucy, and Andre the Giant in the bar.

“Well?” he asked playfully.

Not knowing what he meant, I just stood there like an idiot until Lucy poured me a draught and said with a wink, “Andre doesn’t like to drink alone.”

“Andre doesn’t like to drink alone,” he bellowed jovially. He also said it so loudly that the sound reverberated in the bar and echoed through the lobby.

I realized that it was probably my job to shush him. After all, it was late and I was security. Guests were sleeping. But as I held that cold mug in my hand and looked at his welcoming smile, all I could think was – I’m about to drink a beer with Andre the Giant!

So I said what anyone in that situation would say: “Cheers!”

Andre started telling stories. Whether it was his thick accent or his drunken state, I couldn’t understand much of what he said. But it didn’t matter; he had a contagious happiness about him. Lucy and I sat mesmerized for about thirty minutes until he announced he was finished. He paid his tab and the tabs of the fallen businessmen, including a generous tip, and lumbered off carrying a briefcase that looked absurdly small in his immense hand.

I was a little cloudy and figured this was finally my opportunity with Lucy. But she immediately transformed from “giggly Lucy drinking a beer with Andre the Giant” into “law student Lucy.” So I found a conference room couch and slept until it was time for the morning guys to relieve me.

“Any trouble from the wrestlers?” one asked.

“Not a bit,” I yawned, hoping he wouldn’t smell anything on my breath. “Not a bit.”