Sunday, April 8, 2012


Hi Friends!

When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn my favorite TV shows were "The Fugitive", "The Invaders", and "The Prisoner". Common theme? The protagonist in each show was alone and fighting The Man (in one form or another). A falsely convicted death-row bound physician running from the dogged pursuit of the detective obsessed with his capture; the lonesome soul who accidently witnesses the landing of an alien spaceship filled with strange beings who wish to destroy humanity; the mysterious British secret agent who suddenly resigns his post and wakes up in a town that he is not permitted to leave and which is populated with sinister authority figures who monitor his every move and repeatedly attempt to force him to explain why he resigned (using any and all means available, including various 1960s versions of today's water-boarding.)

See the common thread running through my choices of hero? More to come about that...but the reason I mention this now is because in the past two years I have been bombarded with questions regarding my reason(s) for retirement. And each time this occurs I flash back to the Prisoner (where the authority figure demands in the most menacing voice possible "WHY DID YOU... RESIGN!" ) Only in my own case it's "WHY DID YOU...RETIRE!" Decent pay, important responsibilities, the ability to help the elderly and disabled...why would ANYONE leave that job prematurely????

Ah, why indeed?

Well, this came up again when I ran into my neighbor Tony one evening in the elevator. I was returning from my usual incredibly tough day: two-hour workout, a jog on the boardwalk, a relaxing lunch - and then some writing and music on the computer while I sipped a delicious Chocolate Mocha at the local Starbucks. Tony? Tony looked like hell...appearing much older than myself (he's slightly younger), exhausted, shoulders slumping, lines on his face...I hadn't run into him in a long while, I asked him "why?" - and received the answer I expected: work! He was being asked to do more and more, receiving less and less support - and facing daily the wrath of bosses with high (and unrealistic) expectations.

Tony paused as we exited the elevator. And then came the two most dreaded words in the English language (well...perhaps not! but I dreaded them...) "MULTI TASKING." Tony repeated: "MULTI TASKING." His eyes flashed. A third time. "MULTI TASKING." A fourth. With expletives. Many expletives. For emphasis.

I'm a nice guy, I invited Tony in for a beer. Tony hadn't known I'd retired. I'd spent too much of the past two years down in Florida helping my parents. Tony said he's eligible for retirement - but he felt like he should keep going. Continue to do something valuable. Contribute to the company. Increase his retirement savings (so that it would take an additional three months to qualify for Medicaid when he was eighty). Drive himself to an early grave (it had happened to some of his co-workers...)

He sat on my couch, looked at me. Damn didn't I look relaxed! Suddenly he asked The Question: "WHY DID YOU... RETIRE"? I shook my head - I'd worked for the Government. Some things are best left to the imagination. Tony needed to know. Again: "WHY DID YOU...RETIRE"? Pleading now - like the young Beatles searching for the meaning of life from the Maharishi..."WHY DID YOU...RETIRE"?

The Prisoner would never give his captives the reason for his retirement....but Tony was a nice guy. Hard-working. A valuable member of society. Clearly a worker whose accomplshments should be valued...and - a damn good neighbor. Once he'd helped me fix something in my apartment. He deserved an answer...I looked at him. It suddenly hit me. He didn't really want to know the reason(s) for my retirement - he wanted me to tell him why he should retire.

"Tony" I said. "I can help you. Let me tell you a story. The Iverson Bicycle factory story."

I gave him another beer. And so I began...going all the way back in the summer of 1975...

To be continued next time...until then,



drjay54 said...

I love it!! Help Tony and by extension the world. Hope to have a beer or two with you soon.

sal sax said...

This sounds like an intriguing story...You know you did the right thing for you. If Tony is pushing himself to an early grave maybe you should intercede. Show him the way .
I can't wait to read the Iverson Story.