During our stay in New Brunswick, Deb and I camped at an oceanfront campground. Unfortunately, the oceanfront was primarily reserved for RVs and trailers while our tent was relegated to what wasn’t so much “front of ocean” as “back of sewage plant.” These are the wafting risks you take when you stay at a municipal campground.
Packing the prime real estate of the campground were dozens and dozens of camper vans known as Pleasure-Ways. The park was in fact hosting a Pleasure-Way rally, with Pleasure-Way owners from across Canada and the U.S. coming together to meet and discuss, I guess, Pleasure-Ways.
I can’t imagine being so excited about any mode of transportation that I would want to meet other equally enthused owners. But they happen all the time. When lovers of classic cars get together, it’s called a cruise night. When owners of loud four-wheelers team up, it’s a called a bloody public nuisance.
“Do you know of the Pleasure-Way?” I imagine our ralliers saying. “Come, friend, let me show you the Pleasure-Way…” Sounds positively lascivious until you look around and realize it’s probably been some time since these folks enjoyed the Pleasure-Way.
Yes, the Pleasure-Way appears to be the way of mostly older folks, retirees who have freed themselves from the shackles of job and home for the joys of the open road and sleeping in glorified parking lots.
If I were writing a comprehensive memoir of my life, the chapter covering the times I’ve stayed at campgrounds heavy on the RVs and retirees would be entitled “Old Men Pooping.” Apart from hanging out clever banners (“It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere”) and polishing their RVs, this seems to be one of the driving activities – storming the facilities like the beaches of Normandy, preparing not to free Europe but last evening’s prime rib. There are no atheists in men’s stalls.
This is all crude, ageist and generalizing, of course, and most of all disconcertingly close to home. Looking around the campground, I thought to myself, “Wow, there are a lot of older campers here.” Then I looked in the mirror of the very men’s room I had fled to myself and realized: le vieux, c’est moi.
As I mentioned last week, Deb and I hiked abundantly during our time away, hustling up hills, negotiating rocks with relative ease and nary a broken hip. Even after spending the night on an air mattress, we remained flexible the next day – following a strong cup of coffee and a little quiet time.
But my body is slowly betraying me, and I don’t even want to think about my mind. This past week, I got my first set of progressive lenses, and I am now a person who has to look directly at his feet when going down the stairs. I’ve always wondered why old people walk so slowly, and now I know it’s because two-thirds of what they see is out of focus at any given time. It’s like being drunk but with none of the Pleasure-Ways.
Right now it’s my eyes, but I also need a crown on a molar, and my family will rejoice the day I get hearing aids – and I will actually be able to hear the rejoicing for once. At this point, I’m spacing out the work like they were home renovations, though my resale value is the pits and everybody knows my plumbing is shot.
I acknowledge that the many people reading this are older than me, and I expect little sympathy. It’s not like I stuck a flag in middle-age and declared I discovered it. I don’t even like talking about it that much.
And yet here we are.
Consciously I’m aware that age is a mental game and that if you start thinking you’re old, you’ll start feeling old. Increasingly, though, I find myself, despite myself, comparing aches and pains with peers in similar periods of life – whose knees are doing what wonky thing, whose hips have a mind of their own, so-and-so’s ordeal with digestion, and all the things we can no longer eat, drink, do or do quite as much or for as long.
And now I realize: aging is my Pleasure-Way.
I’m in the club of people with greying hair and failing parents. Our membership is huge! And increasingly into naps!
We all just want to connect. It’s a beautifully human thing, especially at an age when making new friends becomes so difficult. And so we cling to what we have in common to get us through the years, whether it’s comparing your Plateau XLMB (with the innovative Murphy bed) to your neighbour’s Plateau XLTD (with the multifunctional rear dinette) or talking at length about gas. It never gets old.