Saturday, March 30, 2013

Retirement Chain of Choices

Recently I met some friends for dinner at Smokey Bones. It was a rare opportunity for me to enjoy ribs, since my husband doesn’t care for them. When barbecue is done right (and this was), it leaves you licking the sauce off your fingers. As I sucked my way from pinky to thumb, I was reminded of a classic radio commercial.

The old ad went something like this. A diner orders barbecued chicken. The waitress asks: Do you want a whole chicken or a half? Diner: A whole. Waitress: Do you want regular sauce or extra sauce? Diner: Extra. Waitress: Do you want a napkin or a Wash ‘N’ Dri? Diner: Wash ‘N’ Dri. Waitress (yells into the kitchen): One bird loaded, with soap and water to go. I think this ad is memorable not just because of the clever tag line, but also because of the build up of all the choices the diner is asked to make.

We face choices throughout our lives. Caffeine or decaf? Skim milk or whole milk? AM or FM? Democrat or Republican? As we move into our retirement, our choices change. It’s more like: dentures or implants? Bifocals or intraocular lenses? Hearing aid or blissful ignorance? Soup and salad or salad and soup?

Some of our choices get more complicated, so I’ve created a new retirement parlor game: Chain of Choices. The goal is to see who can build the longest chain with various choices retirees have to make. One person starts the chain with a single choice, and the next person has to use the second option in that pairing to begin a new choice pairing.

Let’s start with what someone who is retired might decide to wear (or not) when he gets up in the morning. Is it just PJs or a bathrobe? Bathrobe or ratty sweatshirt? Ratty sweatshirt or whatever isn’t in the laundry? Laundered clothes or commando? You get the idea.

Here’s another one: the way retirees could be forced out of bed in the morning. Instead of an alarm clock vs. a clock radio, choices might be ambient noise vs. sun in your eyes. Sun in your eyes or a cat that wants breakfast (and is climbing all over your head)? Cat that wants breakfast or cat that is being chased by the dog? Dog chasing cat or dog that needs to go out?

This can then morph into: dog that needs to be taken out vs. being able to travel whenever you want. Travel by air or wander by motor home? Motor home or Jazzy scooter? Jazzy or a walker? Walker or 3-footed cane? Footed cane or broken bones? Broken bones or stay planted in a lounge chair in perpetuity? Isn’t this fun?

Speaking of lounge chairs, another choice might have been: lounge chair with hassock vs. recliner with foot rest. Recliner or sofa? Sofa or on the floor with a pillow under your head? On the floor or on a yoga mat? Yoga mat or plush bath towel? In this example, we have somehow segued from relaxation to exercise. In our house, that’s going in the wrong direction.

Let’s try out the personal care arena (and observe how cleverly I move between variations of the same item). Will you choose a loofah or an oatmeal scrub? Oatmeal or Metamucil? Metamucil or prunes? Prune skin or deep moisturizer? Moisturizer or face mask? Face mask or sloughing mitt? Mitt or loofah? Notice that this has now created the ultimate prize in a chain of choices contest: The Chain Loop. The person who creates the loop is automatically the winner (mercifully ending the game).

Getting back to relaxation, the choice could be: put on music vs. watch a movie. Watch a movie or read a book? Read a book or write a book? Write a book or write a blog post? Write a post or have a glass of wine? We all know how this one turns out.

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