SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Suddenly Over the Hill
By Dave Kiffer


April 09, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - I had a weird experience in the aisles of Safeway recently.

Yes, I know that's not usual, but this was even more disconcerting than the normal, run-of-the-mill run ins with the usual wackos and miscreants that grocery shop after normal hours.

A couple of missionaries, female ones, flirted with me.

Okay, maybe they were just being really friendly.

I was in the cold remedy aisle, pondering just how it could be that a single medicine could cure both runny and stuffy noses.

Suddenly, I noticed a young woman was standing fairly close to me. In fact, she was staring over my shoulder and at the package I was holding in my hands. I looked up and she gave me a great big smile. I smiled back, she smiled back. I smiled. She smiled. I got nervous and dropped the cold medicine into my basket.

gif Never too old by Vince O'Farrell

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By Vince O'Farrell, The Illawarra Mercury, Australia
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

It wasn't just the smile that was unnerving. She wasn't dressed in that usual "American burqa" female missionary garb (long skirt, heavy sweater, hair in a bun, etc). She was dressed like just about any other young woman (early 20s). Nice form fitting clothes and a slightly exposed midriff. The only clue to her missionary status was the name tag.

I started to back away from the cold medicine and I bumped into her partner (they always run in packs of two) who was standing on the other side of me.

I said "excuse me" and smiled. She smiled. I smiled back, she smiled even wider. I looked at the first "missionette" and she was still smiling at me. I smiled back.

My cheeks were starting to sting from this unaccustomed smiling effort. I padded a quick retreat up and out the aisle. They smiled and even waved "bye, bye."

Sure, it's possible that it was some new form of soul saving. A new method that harks towards Madison Avenue's favorite gambit of using a smiling woman to sell any product because American men will associate the smile with the product and think good thoughts.

But the young women never said a word. No invitation to a service. Nothing. Nada.

As someone in his mid to late 40s, I am used to being invisible to the young and vivacious. And make no mistake, these two young women were clearly on the vivacious end of the curve.

I tend to smile and make eye contact with whomever I meet in our fair Salmon City because I was raised to consider that good manners in a small town.

Usually, I note that my nods to the young and vivacious (of both sexes) tend to go unrequited. They are usually too wrapped up in their cell phone conversations to notice the "Old Fogey" passing by them.

But even when they are not yapping away on their oh-so-important phone calls, they don't notice me. I have reached the stage where I am invisible to youth. I am not on their radar and that's just the way it is.

When you are still on the upward side of "the hill" you really don't pay much heed to those on the downward slope. They are merely those doddering old fools who are going a little too slowly in the fast lane and are blocking your forward progress, at best, and/or causing a serious impediment to same (especially if they are your parental units) at worst.

To steal a line from Jerry Seinfield, they know they are our "replacements!"

They don't want us to "lead," they certainly don't want to "follow" us. The only reasonable course of action for us - in their minds - is to "get out of the way."

Of course, there is an exception to the "cloak of invisibility" rule. If the young person is selling raffle tickets, then I loom large on their radar, but I digress.

So when did I first notice this inexorable march of time?

My second attempt at college happened when I was in my late 20s and attending college in Boston. I was obviously a few years older than many of the other students and I thought it was pretty funny, to be sitting in classrooms and have other students approach me and ask if I'd sign their paperwork so they could get into the class.

I certainly looked old enough to a graduate teaching assistant, so it was all in good fun.

Then one day I was on the subway, riding home from some Christmas shopping. The car was full and I was standing, holding on to one of the grab rings, swaying back and forth to the "clickety-clack."

My bags of presents were leaning against my legs.

There was a remarkably beautiful looking young woman sitting nearby as I stood . I didn't even realize I was staring at her.

She looked up and gave me a multi-megawatt smile that warmed the winter chill right off me. I smiled back. She smiled. I smiled. We had a lovely little flirt for a few seconds.

Then her brow wrinkled..

"Excuse me, sir," she said, addressing me as if I were on an outing from the old geezer's home. "You looked tired. Would you like my seat?"

That was it. I had officially become old. It was only a matter of time before AARP came calling. I would soon be eligible for all sorts of discounts as well as a special meal time at Denny's. It was time to "get my affairs in order" because I would - from that day forward - officially be perceived as :"old."

Until of course, I found myself in the medicine aisle at Safeway, pondering life's imponderables.

Such as how does a cold medicine stop a runny nose and unclog a stuffed one at the same time?

And when did missionaries start wearing belly button studs?


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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