Amazing High-performance Old Guy

  C’est moi.  I am, in fact, an Amazing, High-performance Old Guy, hereafter AHOG.[1]

You will want evidence, of course, as you should.  Let’s start with this morning, when this first occurred to me.  I made my first Starbucks run of the morning at about 5:40 a.m.  I got my coffee (Verona) and Bette’s (Pike) and headed back to the car.  I put the Verona on the floor so I would have a hand free to pull the drink cup out of the dashboard.  Then I put Bette’s cup, which is smaller than mine, into the holder.  Then I lifted the top of the drink holder in the console and put my cup there.  Then I drove home and took Bette’s coffee to her and brought mine to my desk so I could write this. (The picture below, by the way, is what you get when you search “high performance” and “old guy.”)

old 1Is that amazing?  Of course.  In the ordinary interplay of language, “amazing” means that most people would be amazed.  That’s not what I mean.  All I mean is that I was amazed.  We are all, nearly always, the players and the audience at our little dramas.  When I describe my response to this performance as “amazement,” I am describing the response of the audience.

The interesting question at this point is not whether it was or was not truly amazing.  The interesting question is why I noticed it at all.  Twenty years ago, given the same car and the same Starbucks at the same hour, I would have done all those things and never noticed.  What’s different now?

Well, there have been times in the last twenty years when significant elements of that performance have not gone well.  I have driven away with one of the cups on top of the car.  I have driven away with one cup in the holder and one on the floor of the car.  I have tried to hold one of the cups on the seat and splashed coffee on my pants at a place where a wet patch that size could be misunderstood.  And, of course, I have dropped one or more of the cups or my car keys on occasion.  Once—not on a Starbucks run—I put the trash on the seat and threw my keys into the trash can at a highway rest stop.

It’s doing so many kinds of things wrong that moves you to notice that you didn’t do them wrong this time.  Noticing is the trick.  When I was young, I read a story about a mobster (Dutch Schulz, I believe) whose throat had been cut.  He didn’t die, but the scar remained with him for the rest of his life and he said that in the morning, he would get out of bed and go to the mirror in the bathroom just to see himself.  “O.K.,” he’d say, “I made it again.”  Yet again last night, I did not die.

And he was amazed.  Probably gratified, too.

So the key to being amazing is being amazed.  The key to being amazed is to notice your current performance, with past performances in mind.  That tends to drive down the criteria by which satisfaction is judged and experienced.  Exceeding the current criteria is what defines “high performance.”

This may seem like so much semantic dancing to you, but the words won’t do it by themselves.  You have to feel it.  Whether you can really feel it probably has something to do with temperament, so maybe not every old guy can be an AHOG.  But I think it has also to do with experience.  You have to fail a lot and then notice the failures with some detachment.  “Irony” would work.  After a while, you find yourself saying things like, “Pretty good for a rookie quarterback working with a short week and a new game plan.”  But you say things like that about your own success in not spilling the coffee on the floor or not driving off with a mug on the roof.

When you are the audience, as well as the actor, you have every reason to be tolerant.  And I am.  I am amazing.

[1] The A has a long a- sound, just as it should.  It is a porcine reference, though oblique.

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About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. My wife, Bette, is the First Reader (FR) of the posts. I have arranged that partly because she helps me write better posts than I would otherwise and partly because I can hold her responsible for the mistakes that I would, otherwise, have to own up to myself.. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsey. I'm a dilettante.
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2 Responses to Amazing High-performance Old Guy

  1. robsheehan says:

    You are, in fact, amazing. In ways you probably do not even realize! You continue to influence is so many positive ways over these many years.

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