I used to scoff at people who lived in senior citizen communities. I called them “Geezervilles,” and swore I would never live in one of them. Not me. I’m too hip.
But, after yet another unmanageable rent increase, there I was with most of my possessions in the back of my truck—for the third time in five years—wondering if it might be time to cast vanity aside and take a look at some age-restricted apartments for a more affordable option.
The problem is that I didn’t feel older than 55. Or act it. I had close friends from the millennial generation, took Zumba classes and bought clothes at Forever 21. In my fantasies—the good ones—I stood on the balcony of a multimillion-dollar home admiring the ocean while sipping an exotic cocktail. A Mingus tune danced in the background as a breeze ruffled my hair.
But in reality, I was sitting in the back of my truck, trying to remember where I put the toiletries.
According to San Diego County, the 65-plus population is expected to double by 2030—and in a report from 2009, most of us are in good health. That is a lot of feisty “over-the-hill” types terrorizing local neighborhoods in search of a place to “crash.”
My own exhaustive search of rentals revealed few apartments that cater to desperate Baby Boomers. I finally found a place in the North County that seemed to have the right blend of funkiness and security. I plunked down a deposit and scribbled my name on the lease—trying to convince myself that jumping into the deep end of the geezer pool was the right thing to do.
As I left the leasing office, I caught sight of a bulletin board, which confirmed the fact that high-tech had not caught up with the elders living in this complex. Several notes and a pair of men’s underwear had been tacked to the board. As I read the messages, I began to wonder if I would survive in a place with oxygen tank delivery and a shuttle bus to the grocery store.
I was having morbid thoughts about my own mortality instead of focusing on the economic advantages of living there. Silly thoughts were hijacking my rational mind—like those bulletin board messages I saw earlier—that served as a geriatric version of Facebook complete with status updates:
“I left a red plaid shirt in the laundry room, and someone STOLE it! Please return my shirt. It is NOT yours.”
“You must NOT leave your clothing lying around,” was written on a torn piece of paper and tacked as a comment to the original status about the missing shirt.
A third comment hung on the second, “The LORD knows who STOLE the shirt.”
Dangling at the bottom and scratched on a ripped piece of a brown paper were the words, “No honor among thieves.”
The first night in my new apartment was fraught with insomnia. I tossed and turned. I was kept awake by thoughts of my youth, how quickly time passes, all the mistakes I made, growing old, dying young and which lottery numbers I should play.
I had just barely drifted off to sleep, when I was awakened by a loud, clanging noise. I stumbled out of bed and peeked through the blinds. It was past midnight. In a blur, I caught sight of a robust woman in a see-through nightgown wearing curlers and using a walker to zip around the walkway outside my bedroom. Apparently, midnight was her exercise time.
The next day, I inquired as to the nocturnal race-walker driver, and was informed that she was a former physician from Germany whose current physical fitness routine was unpredictable. I began to wonder which was worse, the heavy metal music I endured at my previous apartment—or Fraulein Flash ‘n’ Dash’s midnight madness.
A few days later, the race-walker driver locked herself out of her apartment and needed to use my phone to call her daughter. I would learn, after she offered to take my blood pressure as payment for my generosity, that she once had 30 medical specialists under her supervision.
It didn’t take long for me to meet the other tenants—like Antonio, the opera singer. I could hear his thundering voice as it shook the rafters as he practiced the scales, or whatever it was he practiced. Then there were the two mad scientists—one who “shoots the moon” with some gadget—and the other who builds weird contraptions that hang out of his window. The contraptions are “top secret.” Supposedly, he is the only one who knows how to build them. And no one knows what they do.
After the Christmas holidays, a half-dead poinsettia plant went missing, and the status on the bulletin board was updated:
“To the person STOLE the poinsettia from the first floor—you KNOW it is not yours. Return it. Everyone knows it belongs to me.” ~Jerry
A new comment appeared shortly:
“Jerry, the poinsettia is NOT yours, it is MINE. It always was and always will be MINE.” ~Elsie
Then there was the next comment:
“The LORD knows who STOLE the poinsettia.”
The ripped piece of brown paper once again appeared at the end:
“No honor among thieves.”
Several days later, the plant mysteriously reappeared in its former location minus all of its leaves.
Recently, I found myself weaving my own unique thread into the eccentric fabric of Geezserville. Previous to moving here, I was a recluse. Now, my friends include the apartment psychic; a geriatric surfer; Bud, who rides a Harley, fishes, and shares his daily catch with everyone; and some hippie types with whom I share memories of the 1960s as well as a few other things.
Yesterday, as I stood on my balcony, a breeze ruffled my hair. Coltrane played on my new iPod dock, and I sipped a glass of organic juice. I thought about how good life is and how lucky I am to be here.
Maybe I should write that down and hang it on the bulletin board.