Cue the vultures

My birthday is in August – the far end of August. Notwithstanding the entire month in between, the automated corporate birthday emails arrive on August 1st. Most of them are from restaurants wanting to remind me how well they treat me: “Present this birthday coupon for a free thimble cupcake with your next meal!”

It’s nice of the various corporate entities to think of me within a month of my birthday. It makes me feel loved, in a cozy, direct marketing kind of way.

This August 1st, I was reminded that this birthday – the one coming several weeks from now – is a big one. It’s the one where I get to forget about all the worldly troubles plaguing young people and start to enjoy life. At least that’s the understanding I have from this piece of mail that landed at my house on August 1st.

What a thoughtful birthday card.

This is not the first time I have been recruited by AARP. They’ve been after me for decades as a random fish who might get caught up in the big nets they cast blindly. This time it’s different. This hook was chosen especially for me.

In the past, the recruitment materials had an anonymous vibe to them: “Hey, Dude. Are you old by any chance? If so, come hang out with us. We’re the cool old people.”

This new mailing feels like a spotlight in my face: “Scott. Yes you, Scott. We know when your birthday is (more or less) and we know how old you are. Don’t fight it. Give in. Become one of us. There’s no escape. We already made up a card with your name on it. It’s only temporary, so be sure to mail us $16 by 9/11/17.”

“We’ve been watching and we know all about you.”

You must agree there is a hint of totalitarian voice in the command to enjoy my birthday. Maybe I haven’t sorted out my emotions regarding this milestone yet. And it is a little presumptuous to assume I want a membership kit. On the other hand, the free tote does look nice; I could use it when I hike off with the other novice seniors to the indoctrination camp. I’ll just pack a few necessities. I wouldn’t want an overweight bag to make me fall and break my hip before I’ve been given all the tips and tools to help me begin enjoying life.

“Free tote. You can carry all your medications. You know you want it. Yes, you do.”

Maybe I’ll carry the temporary card around with me for a while, just in case the secret handshake doesn’t buy me into the bingo game. I’ll carry it for a month. By then, maybe they’ll be concerned about the September crop of fresh old people and forget about me. I’ll lay low and let the card quietly expire.

Unless the card gets me some good discounts by then. In that case, I’ll have to seriously reconsider parting with my $16, because if there’s one thing we senior citizens dearly love, it’s a good discount.

The perfect knock-knock joke

There’s something about a knock-knock joke. Four-year-olds can’t get enough of them. This is God’s wrath on parents.

I don’t know what crime parents have committed to merit such a harsh punishment, but it must have been something really bad.

Tell a knock-knock joke to a four-year-old (which is something a sane person should never do) and he will assume that you made it up on the spot. Moreover, he will be so enchanted with your improvisational talent that he will begin to search for his own light of inspiration. He will start inventing his own knock-knock jokes, on the spot, just like you did.

Now, because you are insane, you are stuck with a four-year-old knock-knock joke salesman. You will be bombarded with impromptu nonsense, of which all you will understand are the words: “Knock. Knock.” And you will laugh. There is nothing funny about this; you will laugh nonetheless. You will laugh because you don’t have the heart not to laugh, and because you feel awkward about telling your kid to just shut up in public. Also, you are insane. It is mostly insane people who go around laughing when nothing funny is tickling their senses.

I, too, am insane. I did the unthinkable and told my son a knock-knock joke one carefree afternoon. Now, I endure marathons of comedy like this:

“Knock. Knock.”

“Who’s there?”

Banana.”

Mr. Banana comes to call

I was wondering if you were interested in a free estimate for house painting.

Banana who?”

Banana open the door.”

Mr. Banana gets impatient

For God’s sake, open the door! I’m getting ripe out here waiting.

And I laugh. I laugh heartily, as though my tin foil helmet is tickling the base of my neck. I laugh like I’ve finally gotten the straitjacket broken in so it doesn’t pinch like it used to do.

The other night, I was enduring a bombardment of such jokes when my son proved that at least one of us still clings to a tenuous grasp on sanity. Somehow, he hit upon the perfect knock-knock joke for a four-year-old. It summed up everything in five lines. It would have been a miserable failure of a joke if it had come from the mouth of anyone even a few years older. For a four-year-old, it was perfect – perfectly funny – because great humor is rooted in truth.

“Knock. Knock.”

Who’s there?”

I.”

I who?”

I have no idea what’s going on here.”

For a fleeting moment, I took off my straitjacket, exited my rubber room, and laughed at the most sanely funny thing in the world: truth.

Then, the normal barrage resumed, and I took shelter in my safe place.