I am a creature of habit. I work out the same four evenings each week for the same 60-minute regimen. I mow my lawn and grocery shop the same way every Saturday. Each evening, I recline in "Mike's chair" to read and watch TV.
Have I become my father's ghost?
For 40 years, I've preferred khakis, sweaters, and button-down shirts at work and rugby shirts and jeans at home. Summertime staples are shorts, polo shirts and deck shoes.
Boring? That's my middle name for dress, diet and beyond. Cheerios, a bagel, juice and green tea for breakfast. Yogurt with crackers and fruit chased with more green tea at noon. For dinner, my wife dictates normal menu variety, and on weekends I feign sophistication while consuming Belgian brews with Utz dark pretzels.
Since I'm no slave to new fashions, it's no surprise that I'm somewhat resistant to technological advances. This began in 1970 when a stern nun ordered me out of typing class for abusing her Royal typewriter keys. "Fine!" I muttered, "I can always pay someone to type for me." (Unfortunately, such thinking doesn't work with e-mail.)
I was the fogy holdout who embraced CDs only after cassettes became unavailable. "It isn't worth the money to buy something new if what you have works perfectly well," I growled. I've often said the same applies to electric seats, razors, GPS, iPods and plasma TVs. OK, I really do sound like my father now.
Video games? Can't stand them - although I was hooked on Pong in 1977 until going cold turkey from my addiction. Text messaging? I still haven't been initiated. I do use a cell phone, but only for basic features, including not being bothered by telemarketers. I'll always hate its intrusion on the beach, in restaurants and theaters.
I did try a GPS last winter in Spain. "Rosita" forced me into countless construction sites, regularly lost her signal, and repeatedly reproached me to "turn around at the next possibility." OK, Rosita was defective, but she sure soured me on her kind. "Maps are perfectly fine!" I groused.
I now feel anxious without my exercise regimen, recliner, comfort foods and magazines. In many respects, I have turned into my dear, deceased father - increasingly old-fashioned, routine-reliant and pretzel-addicted. But Dad would cringe at many unconventional experiences I have also embraced.
You see, my growing dependence on routines and retreat from new practices was paradoxically accompanied by two unconventional years of European life during which I immensely enjoyed sabbatical work and travel.
Why do I resist modern conveniences and practices while I simultaneously relish new job settings, foreign lands and cultural experiences?
Like many aging boomers, I am reassured by security and sameness in the face of society's unprecedented pace of technology. In addition, my memory, cognitive speed and related ability to process and tolerate novel procedures are now diminishing - the GPS being Exhibit A.
Nevertheless, there are so many unusual and fulfilling work, travel, culinary and recreational experiences that fogies like me still crave. Part of this may be our boomer need for stimulation, combined with increased interests in other cultures.
As I enter my "senior discount" years, I'm trying to accept my limitations while extending my comfort zones. I've decided the key is relaxed exposure to novel practices, minimized sensory overload and acceptance of help with complex actions. (Easier said than done by a man who rarely asks for directions.)
And so, you'll be happy to know that I'm experimenting with new workout routines, foods and technologies. I took a Microsoft Office class, now pay bills online, and use Google Talk with family overseas. A student recently explained what a Wii was and showed me his iPod Shuffle. Tomorrow, text messaging! Sister Royal would be proud - and aghast.
In a few years, I may master the three TV remotes I own. Who knows, maybe I'll even try a GPS again. But only if Rosita has a smart American cousin.
Mike McGrew is a school psychologist from Carroll County who recently returned from working in Germany. His e-mail is email@example.com.