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Thomas Michalski
Retirement: challenges and advantages
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It’s been more than three years since I retired.

I believed at the time that living by calendar schedules, fighting commuter traffic and fending off life’s challenges was behind me.

I liked being a Tampa Bay Newspapers editor. I feel privileged to again be granted an occasional 15 inches or so of editorial page space to report on or vent on topics dear to my heart.

Modern senior citizens are unlike those of decades ago who often spent their remaining years in back yards or front porches waiting to die.

Today’s older Americans are more active, more involved, and certainly more cerebral than those of preceding generations. Often times we travel, perform volunteer work or merely track the adventures of Jerry Springer or Steve Wilkos and wonder where they find those people that appear on their shows.

Thanks to modern electronics we keep up on current events through newspapers, television, and smart phones that do practically everything but brew the morning coffee. My step granddaughter knows all about contemporary electronics. She is the go-to person in the family when our gadgets refuse to work.

But I have grown to absolutely abhor automated telephone systems that banks, credit card and insurance companies employ. Patience is not one of my virtues. Dealing with electronic voice commands that demand pushing buttons to answer questions instead of talking to real people is challenging and frustrating.

Just recently I threatened an electronic voice with something that would be impossible to accomplish without being a contortionist. The metallic response:

“Thank you, I will transfer you to a representative.” I sometimes wonder how my mother who was in her late 80s and legally blind overcame the obstacles of modern survival.

Then there are the doctor visits where nurses and office workers often affectionately address seniors as “honey” and “sweetheart.” Many of us resent that. Last month my wife had to undergo a colonoscopy. The doctor actually presented us with before and after color pictures of the procedure. I wondered aloud if I should have them enlarged to frame and hang over the living room sofa. And why would a doctor specialize in that sort of thing, anyway?

Being a senior citizen does have its privileges. We get modest discounts at restaurants and stores. My days of flashing press credentials are over. I now offer an AARP card. People seem to be more courteous to older folks. Last year we visited New York City and I was astonished over how many young people offered me a subway seat. I declined each time, proving instead that I was wholly capable of hanging on to a stanchion pole without being catapulted through the entire length of the train as it roared into the 42nd Street station.

As age advances we find that accomplishing once-routine chores has become slightly difficult. Young women in skimpy clothing are less interesting. Mowing a lawn is challenging on hot summer days. We suffer from aches and pains. We forget easily and actually obey traffic laws.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife and an extended family. I still go to the gym three times a week. We travel. I’m reasonably healthy and still set goals for the future.

There aren’t too many things I would change if I could rewind my life. Perhaps I would practice patience, listen more to what people have to say, accept human idiosyncrasies, and put my mind in gear before starting my mouth.

As for the good old days ... they’re just beginning.

Thomas Michalski is the former Pinellas Park Beacon editor. He lives in St. Petersburg. Email him at
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