Al Batt: The days of long ago seem to be long gone

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.

My old coat is nearly as battered as its owner.

That doesn’t bother me.

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I can’t believe I’m old enough to have such a mature attitude.

Do you know what has changed since I was a kid?


I came to that conclusion when nature called.

Nature puts me on speed dial when I drink copious amounts of tea while seated behind a steering wheel.

I visited a convenience store. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Its bathroom was sparkling clean and the needed paper products were abundant. The restroom process was a relief if not restful. It took little time, even after making a purchase, something I need to do when I use the facility of a commercial enterprise.

I recalled those bygone days when linemen made up seven of every 11 players in the offensive alignment of a football team. Now linemen are so big that they make up 11 of every seven players. I toiled at a gas station then. It looked good on my resume and I needed money to keep my old gas guzzler in fuel. What did I call that aged car at the top of a hill? A miracle. That old beater didn’t have a working odometer. It didn’t have many things that worked. The lack of an odometer robbed me of the pleasure of watching it turn to 100,000 miles. We did that with my parents’ car. My father drove around until the odometer hit 100,000. We did a victory lap and then we had cake.

Working at a gas station was a good experience. Like weeds, we grow in places no one thought we could.

A sign in that business read, “Attendant carries a gun, not cash.”

It was a grease gun.

That gas station had a bathroom that had been cleaned once, but not while I worked there. There was a plaque commemorating the cleaning date. The boss painted over the graffiti on its walls at least once a month.

The bathroom was locked. Someone in need had to ask me for the key. My minimum-wage job wielded a lot of power.

The bathroom key was attached to a piece of iron the size and weight of a blacksmith’s anvil. I had to help some people carry it to the restroom door.

Why the attached weight? People used it to bang on the wall when there was no toilet paper.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when my father said, “His number was up,” as he did his daily read of the newspaper obituaries.

“What number was he?” I asked, having decided at that moment to never become a mathematician.

I recall another day when I was reading a book in the sunlight coming through a window of our old farmhouse.

“Would you mind helping your father?” my mother asked sweetly.

“Of course,” I replied, continuing to read.

“Well, get going,” said mother.

“I meant, ‘Of course, I mind.’”

My mother prodded me out the door. She believed that each day was a special occasion, especially after she’d read the obituaries.

Having left my book, I found myself helping my father do some farm chores. He wasn’t far from the age that I am today.

“You’d better let me do that,” I said helpfully. “You’re not as young as you used to be.”

I might have uttered those words in a more smart-alecky than concerned manner. Dad didn’t pay me to be good. I was good for nothing.

My father told me, “You’d better let me do this if you want to get any older.”

Kids grow up too soon. That includes you and me.

You stop being a kid when it’s no longer funny when you fall. Your sense of adventure becomes staying upright.

When you’re little, you hear, “Isn’t that cute? He’s trying to tie his shoes.”

When you’re old, you hear, “Isn’t that cute? He’s trying to keep his sweatpants from falling down.”

If someone calls you spry, you’re old.

The older we get, the earlier it gets late. That famous philosopher, Unknown, said this, “Don’t smoke too much, drink too much, eat too much or work too much. We’re all on the road to the grave — but there’s no need to be in the passing lane.”

Was I happier lugging around a barbell attached to a restroom key than I am today? No, I was just younger.

I’ll keep plugging along.

My old coat may be tattered and torn, but it still does its job. Like good memories, it keeps me warm.