I was standing in line at a fast food restaurant, and there was this older guy in front of me. I know, it’s kind of strange for me to say “older” because admittedly I’m older, but he seemed older-older (that’s not the technical term) — about 85.

Anyway, as he was paying his bill, he slowly said to himself, “Now, let me figure out the tip.”

Oh man, I thought, this is going to take forever.

And then the older-older man quickly told the cashier, “Since it’s takeout, I’m going with a 13% tip, so that’s $2.86, and I will round up to $3, which is actually 13.4%.”

“Wow,” I said, “that was great. How did you do that?”

“I used to be a CPA before they put me out to pasture.”

And then he winked at me. A wink that said, “You shouldn’t judge someone by their age, and I’m not older-older, you idiot.” OK, I may have read too much into the wink, but it did get me thinking.

First of all, I am an idiot — that goes without saying, although a lot of people have said it. Second, I hate the phrase “out to pasture.” I don’t want to be compared to a horse unless it’s Secretariat, Justify, or Mr. Ed (of course, of course).

And most important, often times, just when we are getting good at our jobs, we are asked or forced to retire. If you want to retire, that’s great. But if you want to stay in your chosen profession, you should be able to. Your expertise is needed and wanted and should be sought after.

If you’re a veteran teacher, you’ve learned over the years how to reach your kids through humor and empathy. If you’re an older lawyer, you’ve learned the intricacies of the system and how to best serve your clients. And if you’re a plumber, you’ve finally learned how to crouch under a sink without showing off your butt crack.

These days, there are lots of groups fighting to be heard, to be treated fairly. And now it’s time for us seniors to initiate our own movement.

We have to hire one of those hot young public relations companies to — wait a minute, what am I thinking?

We have to hire a mature, experienced public relations company to change people’s attitudes and stereotypes — to let employers know that if we occasionally repeat ourselves, it’s because we’re adamant about our ideas.

And if we go to the bathroom a couple of extra times a day, that’s a good thing, because everyone knows it’s in the bathroom where most great ideas occur.

We have to hold rallies and events and make phone calls and appear on the news and go door to door and flood the internet. Yes, older people know how to use the internet. We have to let employers know that we are still valuable!

And younger workers shouldn’t be intimidated, because there’s room for everyone. We will tell companies they should also hire younger people because even though it might take 20 or 30 years, they will eventually know what they are doing.


Sy Rosen has written for many TV shows, including The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, M.A.S.H., Maude, The Jeffersons, Rhoda, Frasier, Northern Exposure, and The Wonder Years. He now spends much of his time telling jokes to his grandkids and trying to convince his wife that he’s funny.

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