Category Archives: 50+

So What if I’m Not a Car Person?

my first car

A few days ago, I was walking through a shopping mall when I saw a shiny new car on display in the middle of the aisle. My gut went into panic mode for about half a second, but it was followed by a half second of relief when I reminded myself that I was not in “car shopping” mode anymore.

After many months of being on the lookout for a car, I still hadn’t fully shaken the sense of dread and pressure that I constantly felt throughout the information gathering phase. Fortunately, that was all behind me as I has recently signed and sealed a deal on a new car.

When people ask me what kind of car I drive, I often joke and say, “A blue one”, because that’s truly about as interested as I am in talking about cars.

It’s not like back in the 1970’s, while watching The Price is Right, this pre-teen could tell a car’s make, brand, model and actual retail price just from its grill, its hood ornament or its shape, long before the big doors finished opening.

Back then, compact cars, sports cars and luxury cars each had their unique style and you could quite easily tell them apart. But today, many cars look pretty similar to me, so it’s a little hard to get excited about them from the exterior.

Don’t get me wrong, throughout the shopping process, I reminded myself frequently to count my blessings over how fortunate I was to be in a position shop for a car. But when I went to pick up my new car, even my salesman noticed that I was unusually calm.

The reality is that to me, a car is a means of transportation. It gets me from point A to B. It gets me to and from work. It gets me to and from my favourite activities. It allows me to run errands more conveniently. It’s a vehicle I use for hauling 15 kg bags of kitty litter or 96-roll packs of toilet paper. For me, a car is a practical undertaking.

But in contrast, my very first car held a great deal of emotional attachment, as a symbol of freedom, a symbol of independence and even as a sign of being on my way up in the world, with my first major purchase as an adult. My first car meant never again having to ask to borrow the car. It was my car, my terms, my life!

But at this stage of life, trading in a 7-year-old car with a moderate amount of mileage (before the start of a wave of more expensive repairs) certainly brings with it peace of mind. But sadly, I’ve been more excited about shoes, kitchen appliances, electronics and gluten-free club sandwiches.

For me, on the fun scale, car transactions and car maintenance rank somewhere between dental surgery and colonoscopies. For a sensitive guy who doesn’t like confrontation, car transactions have been a source of anxiety for me.

I admit I have been further jaded by the mechanical issues that can arise later in a car’s life, and being presented with repair bills in the four digit$ that I just didn’t see coming.

While I don’t mind surprises that involve cake, blowing out candles and a few rounds of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, mechanical surprises have made it hard to stay in love with my car. Since then, I have kept my car at an arm’s length relationship.

My lack of enthusiasm for my new car was to the point of wondering if there was something wrong with me.

Maybe I have watched too many game shows over the years, for my subconscious to think screaming, dancing and performing cartwheels over a new car is a mandatory ritual. Maybe it’s the fact that some days, it feels like every other commercial on TV is about cars. Maybe it’s the fact that cars are often thought of as routine cocktail party conversation.

Once I opened up and started asking a few close friends and colleagues if it was just me, I was most relieved to find out that I was not alone.

Even though it wasn’t a scientific study, the varying degrees of excitement over vehicles are as different as the people who shared their views with me.

Whether it was because they don’t get attached to “things”, whether it was because they are on their 10th car, whether it was because they think of vehicles in practical terms such as a child and pet taxi, whether it was the depreciation factor, or whether they bristled at the thought of negotiating a deal, the reasons were very personal.

But I was reassured that it wasn’t just me who thought, “It’s just a car.”

I fully appreciate that cars are an important industry that creates many jobs, cars help us to get around in our sprawling cities, cars allow us to travel, and some people love cars more than they do gluten-free club sandwiches. Cars remain a symbol of freedom and of independence which help feed our natural curiosity to see more of the world.

For some, cars are a symbol of success and status. Everyone sees cars differently, and that’s OK.

Cars are great and have helped me to save a lot of time, to cross things off my bucket list and to see things I wouldn’t have been able to see through other means of transportation. And I must confess, for someone whose hands are considered refrigeration devices, the heated steering wheel on the new car is a stroke of genius!

But if my excitement factor over a new car doesn’t register on the Richter scale, it’s not because my car isn’t important to me. Far from it! It’s just that after 36 years of driving, the novelty has worn off a bit.

To all those passionate car people, you have my deepest respect and admiration. It’s thanks to you that cars have evolved in the way that they have, and that you have helped raised the bar in terms of car features, car safety and of their infinite possibilities. Thank you!

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, Travel

When Did Taking Turns Go Out of Style?

“Could I help the next person in line?” the cashier yelled as she opened her checkout line.

I was the next person in line.

But before I had time to take my three small items off the conveyor belt, the two people behind me had scurried over to the new checkout line like rats running with a slice of pizza in a New York subway.

I had no opportunity to take my rightful place in the line of the new checkout.

Still, I stood there horrified. Compounded by the aggressiveness and determination with which the two people behind me jumped over, I wasn’t sure if I was witnessing a scene at a grocery store or a National Geographic special featuring lions closing in on their prey.

Back when I was a kid, that offence would have been worthy of a time-out and one or two weeks’ allowance. As well, it would have been compounded with a guilt trip started by a long glare with disappointed eyes and a suspiciously calm, “Didn’t I raise you better than that?”

I’ll never forget those times… wonderful childhood memories!

But also, important life lessons.

Yet, on a daily basis, the underlying “Me first, and screw everybody else” self-entitled attitude bewilders me. I see it on the roads, I see it in malls, I see it on vacation… I see it pretty much everywhere. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Inspiring

Is it Possible to Master More Than One Art Form?

I was recently walking through the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, admiring the work of celebrated impressionist painter, Berthe Morisot. After a few minutes of roaming through the exhibition, I caught myself doing what I usually do at art museums.

Not only do I admire masterpieces from afar to get the big picture on what the artist was trying to convey, but I often zoom in very closely to observe the intricacy of the brush work that was needed to achieve that vision.

In doing so, I often come away feeling inspired, thinking to myself that maybe I should get back into painting to try my hand at that technique.

Similarly, when my camera shutter captures a really amazing picture, some of it is technical knowledge and some of it is luck. I often think that if I had the free time to play with all of the settings, to better master the principles of photography, maybe luck would be less of a factor.

The same thing happens when I’ve surprised myself with something I’ve produced in the kitchen. I say to myself that if I just spent a little more time practicing the technical skills, I could get even better at it.

There is no disputing that I have the soul of an artist and that inspiration comes pretty easily. The question is whether there are enough hours in the day to explore all of the art forms which interest me.

With maybe 50 to 60 years ahead of me, could I ever do it all? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring, photography, Writing

Planning the Best Stay-At-Home Vacation

Regular readers will remember my frustration with myself over my last stay-at-home vacation which seemed jam-packed with projects around the house. As much as I tried to fill my heart with the gratitude of having a nice home and the opportunity to do home improvement projects, I was left very tired and still needed a vacation after my vacation.

The reality is that after a few unusually tough years when mind, body and spirit didn’t have the energy to spare to turn a screwdriver or to declutter a drawer, the to-do list got pretty long. Fortunately, the energy and desire are back and ready to tackle the list, but there are only so many hours in a day to get to everything.

Just the same, when I think ahead to next year’s stay-at-home vacation, I have already committed to myself that every waking moment should not be filled with house projects. I want my vacation to be just that… a vacation!

To get to that point, I have made a commitment to myself that between now and then, I needed to find the time to knock one or two projects off the list each week. They just need to get done in small consistent increments.

When the prize is genuine unstructured play time, not spent with a paint roller in one hand and a drill in the other, I think this should be an easy resolution to keep rather than the old habit of deferring the projects to my vacation time.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

Which leads to the next question… So what do I want to do during the next stay-at-home vacation? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, How to, Inspiring

Why Am I Walking So Fast?

I was walking down the street one evening after work, when I caught myself. I was walking at a brisk pace.

What’s wrong with walking at a brisk pace? Nothing if you are running late or have a long list of things to do and only a little time to accomplish them.

But I wasn’t late nor did I have a long list of things to do. But I was still on autopilot, at a pace more typical of “The Busy People’s Walk”. The brisk pace seems to be the norm these days, even when there’s no reason for it.

While it might be great for my cardio, it’s not exactly conducive to stopping and smelling the roses along the way.

I laughed to myself and thought, “Slow down! Enjoy the moment!” At the same time, it evoked childhood memories from when my Dad used to tell me (in French) “T’es pas au feu”, meaning “You’re not on fire”, whenever I was unnecessarily rushing through something.

Funny enough, even after consciously slowing myself down, somehow my walking speed started creeping up again and I had to remind myself that I am, in fact, not on fire and could enjoy a more leisurely pace. I slowed myself down again.

The question is… why? Has my auto-pilot always been stuck in rush mode? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Inspiring, mental health

The Hunt for the Perfect Lawn Chair

There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying a warm summer day in the great outdoors, in the company of friends or family, feasting on barbecued food and sipping a frosty beverage… until your back locks up and you can’t get out of the freaking lawn chair.

Or conversely, to not be able to get out of bed the next day from lower back pain.

This happened to me a while ago which had my normally brisk walking pace down to a slow shuffle much like the character Tim Conway used to play on the Carol Burnett Show. I was back at my trusty chiropractor’s office for a few sessions to get things back to normal.

Since that time, it has become an annual ritual: testing lawn chairs in the hope of finding… THE ONE!

If you have been around for a few decades as I have, you’ll probably remember that the worst thing that used to happen with lawn chairs was to get up and having a funny checked pattern imprinted on the back of your thighs from the plastic webbing. I miss those days of plaid thighs. But it wasn’t the challenge that it is today.

I’ve accepted the reality of blood circulation randomly deciding to cut out, grunting when I pick up things from the floor and discs degenerating by the hour. These “joys” are tempered by the bright side that waking up with a new ache or pain is actually a sign of still being alive to write about it. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour

When Vacation Time Becomes Home Maintenance Time

Maybe it’s a product of having a busy life and many interests, but I long for the day when I can take a vacation and for it to be entirely made up of time to put my feet up, read a good book and just relax in well-earned peace and tranquility.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a home owner. I also love taking care of my investment. The problem is that through a normal work week, when you factor in time for social activities, writing, cooking, cleaning and laundry, there isn’t much time or energy left to bring out the power tools and the paint cans to knock things off my home maintenance to-do list.

And even when I do set aside time for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, I want it done right the first time. I don’t want to rush the project and risk making a mess. For that reason, it needs a generous time allotment.

It would be one thing if I had no natural inclination for DIY projects or if I hated them, but I don’t. I actually think they are a joy and a privilege.

The worst part is that I am responsible for the to-do list and I tend to expect a lot of myself, so the list does get a little ambitious.

That being the case, the list of projects often get deferred to the only time where time and patience are in good supply: vacations… or should I say, stay-cations. Continue reading

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