Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Retirement Transitions—Road Wanderers

You’ve probably heard the phrase “road warriors,” the business people (usually sales reps) who spend most of their time in their cars. Their vehicles are essentially traveling offices, complete with computers, phone/faxes, office supplies, samples of their wares (if appropriate) and the basic necessities for frequent overnight stays. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them even have minibars and yoga mats and Wii.

I think I’ve discovered their retirement equivalent: “road wanderers.” Road wanderers spend their time traveling around in their cars, visiting family and friends that they likely have not seen for decades. I figured this out on my way back from a trip to the New York metro area this past weekend.

It began with the annual brunch my college friend, Dee Dee, arranged on Saturday. I opted to drive from Providence the evening before. As I took note of the rising cost of gas, I decided to combine some other visits with this trip. I stayed Friday night with my nephew, Barry, his wife, Meg, and their twins in Westport, CT. They’d moved there several months ago, but I hadn’t seen their house yet.

Then I tacked on Saturday dinner in West Central Jersey with my former partner, Charlie, and his family from his first marriage. It was a slightly early birthday celebration for him, arranged by his daughter to coincide with my visit. Sunday midday I connected with a summer friend I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. (She found me on FaceBook.) By coincidence, Ann, who lives near Philadelphia, was doing a puppet show five miles from where Charlie lives. (If you’re counting, that makes four connections.)

Saturday night, I was supposed to be back in Connecticut staying with Lee, a former colleague from Colgate Palmolive, in anticipation of lunch on Monday. We were going to connect with Maida, another former Colgate colleague. (Are you still with me?) This all was canceled when Lee fell ill.

With Monday lunch (and friend tick-offs 5 and 6) no longer scheduled, I found myself driving home Sunday night, a day early. As I passed through the section of New Jersey where I went to high school, I thought, “If I’d known I would have the evening free, I could have stopped off to see Ted and Ellen. They live quite near here.” (Ted was one of my fellow band geeks.) That’s when it hit me: this could be a preview of my retirement years.

This got me to thinking about how I’d need to equip my car for life as a road wanderer. Certainly I’d need the ability to use a computer and a phone. I know what you’re thinking. Get Skype on the computer and you won’t need the phone. Have you tried to set up Skype? Humor me on this one.

I’ll need the ability to brew a proper cup of tea. Perhaps a mini-microwave. Does that mean I’d need a solar array on the roof of the car? I can’t imagine being away from my cats for any length of time. So I’d need cat-friendly lounging and scratching areas for them. Then there’s the litter…

Since I might not know how long I’d be away on each trip, I’d need a month’s supply of all my medications. (Oh, the paperwork!) And vitamins. And lotions. And dental floss. It would also be helpful to have a book on B&Bs that allow cats and to have a Zagat’s guide. There’s nothing worse than wandering the Amish Country looking for a restaurant that specializes in South Indian food. Or having an unrequited longing for thin-crust pizza in Colonial Williamsburg.

You may have noticed that I did not mention a portable wine cellar. I’m careful not to have more than a half glass when I’m going to be driving. As a road wanderer, I’d likely have to give up the vino en route. Quite a sacrifice, now that I think about it.

No wine; lots of litter. Hours upon hours with my driving glasses pressing on the bridge of my nose, making those ugly red marks. I may have to go back to the drawing board on this idea. And as long as I’m passing by the wine rack on my way there…

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