I turned 62 recently. Although it was tempting, my first action was not to file for early Social Security and start bankrupting the nation while living a life of leisure on one-third my current income.
Instead, I took $10 to the Forest Service information office at Union Station in Ogden and bought a Senior Pass that lets me into our national parks, free, for the rest of my life.
Everyone 62 or older should know about this. In a world in which the elderly are increasingly seen as a burden on the nation, and we Baby Boomers as nothing less than a latte-sipping demographic tsunami, this pass is one of the few perks for seniors worth the candle. I wish $10 would this easily make my joints quit hurting.
Aging in general has been a huge disappointment.
As a kid, I thought older people knew everything. For example, I was sure my dad knew all about cars, the economy and life in general.
I have since discovered that dad, like all adults, faked a lot.
One time he told me "true wisdom is knowing what you don't know." When he said that, he was probably dealing with the panic of a man hitting his 50s who has figured out that he still doesn't know squat.
Dad was a good carpenter and an excellent medical technician, but his ability to fix a car consisted mostly of cleaning the engine block with a paintbrush and laundry detergent. That's not harmful, but I now know fixing a squeaking fan belt with hand soap is precisely wrong.
I thought adults never made mistakes.
They were running the world and so had to be right. To avoid mistakes, they formed big groups of wise people to make decisions based on what was best for us all.
Reality is somewhat different. When I think of Congress, or Utah's Legislature, or world leaders in general, the term "dumber than a bag of hammers" comes to mind. A lot of very smart money people just about destroyed the world economy three years ago.
When I was a kid, I thought adults were kind. Kids were bullies or just mean, but adults treated each other with respect.
Actually, this one gives me hope.
I really think most adults want to be kind and are dismayed when they encounter someone who isn't. The best adults keep on being kind anyway.
Every charity knows older people are more generous. I've returned my share of lost wallets, turned off headlights on parked cars and even put the occasional dime in an expired parking meter.
It is in that spirit that I pass along the information about that senior pass.
This federal pass could be criticized as a free ride for old people in these supposedly hard budget times.
But anyone who's spent 62-plus years working a job, raising good kids, paying taxes and putting up with the world's guff deserves a break. Visiting parks for free for the rest of your life is a good one, and helps boost the tourist economy, too.
The federal card is good at all national parks, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service fee areas. It's good for you and everyone in your car, so grandparents (me!) will love this.
If you or someone you know is 62 or older, go get one.
It's wise, it's smart, and it's the kindest thing you'll do for yourself this month.