Put me on the bench, coach!July 5, 2011: 11:06 AM ET
Just when I was getting ready to enjoy my retirement, a goon with a clipboard showed up.
I was about two full days into my dream retirement when Hobbes showed up. It was, like, 7:15 in the morning, and I was just rolling over for my second tranche of shuteye when the doorbell rang and there was some pounding with the knocker and so I got up to see who the hell it might be and there he was on the doorstep with his whistle and clipboard and crisp white T-shirt.
"Up and at 'em, Bucko!" he barked. "Time's a-wastin'!"
"And who might you be, friend?" I replied, a bit put out. A guy doesn't finally get to the point where he can take things easy and enjoy his golden years only to be levered out of his shuteye by some goon with an active agenda. I had half a mind to tell him to shove off. But then there was the other half that was just a little bored already. It was a bright Wednesday morning, and until recently by this time I would have been showered and shaved, with half a grapefruit in my face.
"I'm Hobbes, your retirement coach," he said, "provided as an outplacement service by your Human Resources department as a part of your executive dislocation package."
"Do tell," I said.
"Now drop down and give me 50!" he yelled, blowing his whistle and startling Eddy, my cocker spaniel, who yelped and ran headfirst into a wall. "You can't enjoy your golden years if you're flabby and out of shape!"
There was something strange about all this. Look, I've always been a little flabby and out of shape. Why should that change now? On the other hand, I didn't want to be a slacker for the first time in my career, even if that career was now over. So I dropped down and gave him four.
"Now hop into your business casual wear!" Hobbes ordered. "We're going to go down to the senior center and socialize!" This flummoxed me. The idea of segregating people by age offends me. And I generally don't like old people, except when they're my friends. "Why in the world would I do that?" I inquired, making no move to comply. "I was just going to hunker down here in my Pendleton and work on my Facebook page."
"That's what happens to you guys!" Hobbes screamed, the veins in his 19-inch neck bulging like tiny ink bladders. "You lose touch with the world, you stop shaving and dressing for success, you get cut off, you get depressed, and your golden years turn to an arid tundra of loneliness and despair!"
"Hobbes," I said, "my job was for the most part an endless stream of meaningless, structured encounters with people I didn't want to see, didn't care about, and would probably never meet again. Why would I want to initiate a similar situation now?"
"After that we're going down to the Museum of Fine Arts," he growled, nudging me with a small truncheon he had produced from the pocket of his sweats. "You volunteer there as a docent, to give your life meaning and structure your time a little bit. After that, we'll have a healthy salad for lunch. Then it's time for your nap and an hour of computer play. Then you can take your walk and prepare for your evening activity."
"And what, may I ask, is that?"
"There's a hootenanny and hayride down at the community center," he said with some enthusiasm, adding, "followed by an evening seminar on how to invest your nest egg safely. It's a full day. You'll be all tuckered out by the time you can enjoy your glass of sherry and trundle off to bed."
"Hobbes," I said, drawing my bathrobe tighter and rising to my full, if somewhat diminished, height, "you're fired."
"Thank God," said Hobbes. "I'm tired. You have no idea what us retired HR people are forced to do to make ends meet."