The Old Coot isn’t real?

“Is it real or is it Memorex?” That was the question asked in TV ads, back when cassette tapes were the latest rage in sound reproduction, sending 8-track tapes, vinyl records and reel-to-reel tape players out to pasture. The correct answer was Memorex, not the real voice of a singer. Just in case you’ve forgotten, or have no idea what I’m talking about and your grandfather isn’t around to ask what the heck is a Memorex cassette tape.

A similar question could be asked of an old coot, shuffling around with an elastic support device on his knee, elbow, wrist or ankle. “Is it real, or is it fake?” Most of the time it’s real, but often enough it’s fake, a rouse employed to get some pity or to excuse poor performance in an athletic event.

The pity angle works pretty well. Pity is underrated, but old coots know it can pay dividends. Slap on an elastic joint support so it’s clearly visible, throw in a limp and there’s a good chance doors will be opened for you, you’ll be asked to skip to the front of the line or get out of taking out the garbage, though you have to be careful not to overdo the pity angle at home. Wives pick up on the fraud pretty quick. But, when you’re out in public, surrounded by people who don’t know you, the fakery works surprisingly well.

Most of us old pros use elastic support devices to excuse poor athletic performance. Ranging from miniature golf to real golf, from billiards to bowling, from casual bike rides to multi-mile bike-a-thon fundraisers. It doesn’t get us a head start or entice an opponent to ease up, but it does provide an out, keeping our egos intact. It excuses the tee shots that slice into the woods, the strikeouts at a reunion softball game, the bowling ball that keeps finding the gutter. An elbow strap excuses an unproductive fishing expedition where the only thing you come back with is a wild story about the one that got away.

None of this stuff works when we are with our own kind. Old coots don’t pity old coots for any reason! If an old crony is wheeled into a coffee shop on a gurney, with an IV sticking in his arm and a heart monitor strapped to his chest, at best, he’ll get us to reluctantly inch our chair over so the gurney can be pushed out of the aisle. Any attempt to use a knee, elbow, neck or other sort of mechanical support, an oxygen tank, a fresh scar from open heart surgery, will only net a chorus of, “I’ve had that,” or “I know a guy who had that.” We’ve been up and down the “my-whole-darn-body-is-falling-apart” road, and have no pity. We’re not real people – not anymore; we’re Memorex!

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