July 29, 2016 was the last day I spent as a full-time employee anywhere. I swiped my badge one more time to activate the revolving door that released me to breathe free air for the first time since 1973. Remember what George Costanza said when Seinfeld et.al wondered what happened when George told them his ex-girlfriend who left him because she was a lesbian went back to him? Yup. “It didn’t take!”
Oh, I tried it for three months and took a part-time job at Automotive News. It was a nice little job but the work dried up and so did my employment there. All good. I figured I’d just go back to retirement. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I notified the world on Linkedin I was free again, really just to explain why I was updating my profile. But friends came a-callin’ and offered me opportunities. I politely explained I’m trying to be retired, sort of, and would not accept any full-time employment. “Good!” they said. “We only need some freelance help. Make your own schedule. Work from home. Work from a bar. We don’t care!” Shit. I just can’t get this retirement thing right.
So I happily accepted the offer to become a “contributor” to Forbes.com. That means I don’t really work there. I just, um, contribute. It’s always nice to make a contribution, even if it’s not tax deductible. But it means writing for a prestigious news organization and maybe someone will read what I wrote and I’ll be satisfied.
Other people have approached me about writing, doing public relations, media training–all the stuff I know how to do. I might actually take on more duties…but only part-time. Hmm..all this part-time stuff could become a full-time commitment… to not retiring.
When my father turned the same age as me, he and my mother did what’s expected of people in their late 60’s. They sold the place in New York, moved to Florida, he became an officer on the condo board and captain of the shuffleboard team, my mother played mah jong with the yentas at the pool and didn’t do a lick of work, beyond harassing the board president that the water in the pool is too cold.
Me? I play ice hockey all year ’round. Not with other alta cockers but guys in their 20’s through 50’s. Maybe one other guy in his 60’s but he only shows up in odd numbered years. Can you imagine your retired parents playing ice hockey? On ice? On skates? Maybe on nitro glycerine. I ski. In the cold. On skis. Down a hill. My wife and I kayak on actual water in a river. But we never play shuffleboard. There are no shuffleboard courts I know of in Michigan. Don’t make fun. My father, who was a chemical engineer, very seriously explained what a game of strategy shuffleboard played properly is.
What’s the issue here? When I left Fiat Chrysler people wished me a nice retirement. My team bought me lunch and made a video telling me what a great boss I was. There was pizza in the conference room. Then I screwed it up and didn’t retreat to the golf course or hammock or oblivion. If my parents were alive today I think they would wonder if I’m a little mishugah. I can hear my mother now. “Edwooood! You’re retired! Are ya nuts? Relax! Sit by the pool and pee in the deep end.”
Just doesn’t seem to be working…because I keep working…but it never feels like working. It feels like fun..especially when it’s not to make a living, but to keep on living. And if I ever decide to take my later mother’s advice and pee in the deep end…I’ll never post it on Linkedin, but watch out Instagram!
One of the cool benefits of my particular health plan in retirement is something called “Silver Sneakers.” One of the things I hate about that cool benefit is the name “Silver Sneakers.” Silver Sneakers gives you free entree’ into a number of health club chains around the country with the intent of enticing you to exercise more and lowering health care costs. What really gives me grey hair is the association of the color silver with those of us who have taken a certain number of trips around the sun.
First of all, I have never worn sneakers that are silver nor do I intend to. I may have a couple of silver-y grey hairs, but not enough to notice…especially after I pull them out.
Second, it may be time to call in a metallurgist to suss out exactly which precious metal is in play. How can people in their so-called “golden” years simultaneously come under the classification of “silver.” Perhaps Charles Darwin missed the evolutionary process whereby at at 65 or so you become an alloy.
Third, “silver” denotes second place. Who won gold?
Further, when you think of how many retirees pursue carcinomas under the Florida sun it’s possible to carry a Silver Sneakers card during one’s golden years while being bronzed.
Personally, I would prefer to be identified with a much stronger metal such as steel or titanium, not a malleable milquetoast such as tin or aluminum. How cool would it be to see an AARP ad hawking benefits of membership during your “Kickass Steel Years,” Those are the years when you say exactly how you feel, tell poolside mah jong yentas to put a cork in it and berate Izzy the deli guy about how fatty the pastrami was, in front of all his customers…all without a hint of regret or self-consciousness. Yeah…time for us codgers to kick a little brass.
I guess what I’m saying is we may be getting older but we’re still in the game playing hard. We’re less silver or gold than Iron men and women..who haven’t nearly lost our mettle.
This week marks a year since I retired. It also marks eight months since I retired from retiring, although only partially. When I swiped my badge for the last time after 11 years at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on July 29, 2016 I took a deep breath as I imagined a freed prisoner having done hard time would do, inhaling fresh air and marveling in the blue sky and bright sun. My lockups had been conference rooms and stuffy offices. My shackles were a corporate culture where too many employees cared about the size of their workspaces rather than the quality of their work…with the bold exception of my amazing FCA Digital Media team…the best in the business.
Now, all I had to navigate were the aisles of the supermarket with my wife who, like a field general, marched us from meat to melons to milk plundering the shelves and making a beeline to the checkout unscathed by less focused shoppers, meandering with their carts with no purpose or strategy. We emerged the victors every single time reveling in many dollars of coupon savings. We went out to lunch and paddled the Huron River, hiked nearby trails and took roadtrips. There was no schedule, no Outlook calendar entries, no meetings or town halls. There was only all the time in the world to do whatever, whenever. We ate dinner as a family every single night and spent every night together. It was perfect. It was retirement. It was too good to last.
It ended on October 17th. That’s the day I began a part-time job at Automotive News on their video team. We would say I was now, “semi-retired” which means you work a little..in my case a max of 29 hours a week, have no career aspirations other than keeping your nose clean, doing a great job and having some fun while you earn a few bucks to pay your Medicare and bourbon bills. When you show up people seem happy. When you need to take a day off for one thing or another, no one minds and when you offer some insight based on many years of experience, it’s appreciated. Sometimes I show my age with some timeworn reference and my younger colleagues give me crap, but it’s all in fun because they know I have no interest in their jobs. They work a full damned week! I have every Friday off and most any other day if I need one. Maybe the best part of it all is having a chance to continue to do the kind of work I’ve enjoyed for so many years, but in much smaller bites. Most days I’m home by 2 or 3 and rarely, if ever, miss dinner. I still play ice hockey once in awhile and mow my own lawn.
I’m no Rockefeller (timeworn reference) but we’re comfortable, so it’s not about the paycheck. The currency I crave comes in denominations of relevance, sharing, team work, curiosity, social connection and fun.
I don’t know when I’ll make the move back from “semi” to full retirement. Right now I’m having too much fun..and I’m still around enough to push the shopping cart for my wife at the supermarket, lug the heavy jugs of milk and juice, and reach some items on the top shelves..on my tippy toes.
It’s been a week since I swiped my badge for the last time and walked out of Corporate America into the nebulous world called “retirement.” One savvy co-worker with a “no shit” attitude called it straight. “You’re not really ‘retiring,’ you’re just walking out the door and quitting!” Technically that’s true. Philosophically it isn’t since I’m not seeking full-time work but would be open to a thing now and again just to keep my brain sharp and my annoying self out of my wife’s hair in between bike rides, kayak paddles, bourbons on the patio and pushing the shopping cart at Kroger.
What have I learned after one week of intentional unemployment? I learned I missed the convenient ATM at work but not the over-cologned colleagues who always seemed to be standing just ahead of me on the escalator in an effort to cause “death by olfactory overload.” I learned that telling people you’ve retired causes immediate glances at your legs to see if they’re being held up by either a tripod, long loaf of French bread or cane signed by your erstwhile co-workers. Just because you retire does not mean you’ve given up your ambulatory rights.
It took only 17 minutes to tire of people cracking that I would now be eating dinner at 4 p.m., placing my teeth in a glass each night or would become a shuffleboard savant. I’ll have you know my late father was captain of the 3-time champion Buttonwood shuffleboard team in Greenacres, Fla. and taught me the intricacies of the game which includes blasting the other team’s discs into what’s known as “the kitchen”–the dreaded 10-off trapezoid.
I learned that utilizing senior discounts is not a stigma, but rather an excuse to say “nyah, nyah” to young punks stuck paying full price.
I learned Millennials is just another name for “Generation C”–C standing for “Ciphers.” Indeed, one former co-worker of that ilk said he could accomplish more but just “didn’t have the bandwidth” at this time. Or any discernable skills. In my brief retirement I let that sink in before pouring another bourbon to help me forget it.
I suppose I’ll learn a lot more as time passes and my full-time working life fades into distant memory. Of course there are people I will miss and those I regret missing–with every round. But the bottom line is so far I’m enjoying the time with my family even if every time I appear unexpectedly I hear one of them whisper, “he’s still here!”
On this, my second “work” day of retirement I made a discovery. A high number of men did not show up for work today in the metro Detroit area because they were all, with me, at the House of Electronic Worship known as Micro Center. There was not one woman there. I’ll bet they don’t even have a Women’s Rest Room. Every aisle was jammed with walking testosterone depositories, some who may have needed suppositories because their cheeks were so tightened with arousal over the deals on hard drives, HDMI cables, giant screen TVs and assorted parts, blank media and mini LED flashlights. The check out line snaked for 50 feet looking like LA’s 405 in rush hour–shopping carts filled with electronic things, things you plug in, turn on, set, reset, recharge. In this holy of holies of electromagnet forces size matters. The size of the screen in your cart, size of your RAM, size of your lens, length of your data contract. I left completely spent even though I spent a measly 30 bucks on a cable and a keyboard…the keyboard this post is being written on. Do you feel its power? It’s USB power? It’s OK..it’ll wear off…as soon as I power down.