Retired, or Thru-Hiking?
Let’s play a little guessing game. Here’s how it works: I’ll describe a group of people, and your job, as the reader, is to determine whether this is a group that is:
A) Living in a retirement community, or
B) Thru-hiking the Appalachian trail.
Sounds easy enough, right? Give it your best shot.
None of them have jobs. In fact, these people chuckle and sigh at the 9 to 5ers, though many of them lived such a life, not so long ago.
They pity the smartphone-addicted masses and those still bound to the unending demands of the working world. Because now, on any given day, this group’s sole responsibilities are eating, sleeping, and perhaps going for a walk.
They wake early, 5:30-6 for most, 7 for the “late risers.” And each day they follow the same bland morning routine: tidy the sleeping area, massage stiff limbs and aching joints, and breakfast on painkillers and lukewarm porridge.
At all times they move very, very slowly. Most use assistive walking devices. Their approach can be hard from a distance—an arrhythmic, dull metallic clack click, click clack.
Their conversations can be repetitive and nearly simplistic. More than all else, they talk of the weather. It’s the one interest they all share. Yet whether the forecast is for rain or snow or shine, their day’s routine will likely remain unchanged.
Once the weather has been thoroughly analyzed, they talk of their slowly crumbling bodies, their various ailments. Something always hurts.
Other times, they gossip lightly, or tell uninspired stories about mutual friends, or discuss banal activities they’ve planned:
“I heard so-and-so hurt his back again.” “What’s-her-face went to the grocery today.”
“I think I’ll go into town tomorrow.”
They rue the friends who are no longer with them, and in remembrance, tell stories of those friends’ antics, their naivety.
They lunch when they feel worn out or bored.
Dinner is at 4:30, and again they dine on tired dishes which are either mushy, colorless, or both.
In the evening, many call their families, even if only to say, “Hello, I’m still alive.”
By 7 they’ve retired to beds. Anyone who stays up past around 8:30 is considered a high-strung hooligan. Some hack phlegmatically. Most grimace or make strained half-breaths as they ease their uncooperative spines into a reclining position.
And as the sun still beats on the bustle and hum of the world these people doze off into that realm of endless possibilities, feeling stiff and sore and somewhat alone but drowsily, existentially satisfied nonetheless.
So tell me—who are they? Can you tell?
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