July 16, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 29

Dr. Wes

Young people who appear old are not prematurely wise, but their looks may get them there faster

By Dr. Wes Browning

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Needing to talk about the Hobby Lobby decision last week prevented me from making the important personal announcement that I wanted to make: I am now officially old!

I’ve been looking forward to this for so long.

I’ll never forget my first taste of old age. I was 35 and driving a cab, with a mother and her 5-year-old son in the back seat. My hair was graying around the temples already. The 5 year old blurted out “Mommy! He’s old!” She told him it wasn’t polite to call attention to it. I thought I should be bothered, but I enjoyed being old at 35. Having a mental age of 14 had conditioned me to think I could never be old. Now I was.

Not long after that I was ordering a coffee and a burger at a Jack in the Box and the kid at the cash register gave me the senior citizen discount on the coffee. He also handed me a store discount card so I could get the senior discount every time I came in, because “You’re old enough.” I asked him how old was old enough and I was nowhere near that old. I said, “I’m 35.” He said, “No, you’re not.” I thanked him for the information.

In 1999, I started being truly old by turning 50. It was sweet. That summer I wrote about my joy at finally being able to use the local 50-and-over drop-in center. I wasn’t in need of a drop-in center at the time, but had been in the recent past. It was reassuring to have the option.

The next milestone came in 2009 when I became eligible for a Seattle/King County Gold Card. That’s 75 percent off every time I go to the zoo. That’s some serious scratch. But it didn’t feel right to me. I felt I was only passing for old, like I did all those years ago at the Jack in the Box with the card the kid gave me. It wasn’t real.

Now it’s real. I have the Old Guy Orca Card to prove it. I’ve made it; I’ve scored platinum, I’m going to the zoo every chance I can, I’ve earned it!

Speaking of earning it, Jay Inslee’s strategy to improve water quality is about getting the fish we deserve. The strategy is to tell the EPA that we Washingtonians eat more fish than we’ve previously admitted to, therefore making the EPA grant that our fish should be less poisonous.

So we’re finally going to admit what the rest of the world already knew, namely that we’re fish-eaters. In return for admitting it, the EPA will see to it we get better water, so it will start to be safe to eat that much fish.

Because if we really had been only eating 6.5 grams of fish a day, like we’d been admitting to, just enough for one taste, we wouldn’t have had any right to expect them to be free of mercury.

I do see a difficulty though. If we now admit to eating 8 ounces of fish a day, are they going to stop believing we eat so many hamburgers? If they believe we eat fewer hamburgers, won’t that mean that Boeing will be free to poison pastures?

The really disturbing thing about all this is that Native Americans have been eating on average considerably more than 8 ounces of fish daily, since forever, and apparently that didn’t count for anything until now. It’s only when white people eat lots of fish that it’s important that water is clean.

It’s probably too late to say this, but the whole system is complete nonsense. My strategy to get clean water might have included some vociferous mention of that fact.

Something on the order of, “Wait, you weren’t going to get us clean water at all if we only ate bacon and cheese? Are you all insane?”

Maybe Jay Inslee doesn’t feel old enough to be entitled to make a scene about it.

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