Archives
PUBLISHED: 1:37 PM on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Stealing can't be that bad if it's for the common good
Our church class has been studying greed, envy and various other stumbling blocks, and, Lord knows, I've tried. I've really tried.

Recently, though, I found something I wanted so badly that I've decided to steal it.

The victim of my envy is Corey Ford, who wrote a short story in 1949 called How to Guess Your Age. I happened across it in An Encyclopedia of Modern American Humor, edited by Bennett Cerf (Random House, 1954).

Yes, I realize that a 54-year-old book is no longer modern humor, but its pages are filled with good, clean humor from the best: Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Will Rogers, O. Henry, Damon Runyan, James Thurber and many more.

In How to Guess Your Age (even the title is witty), Mr. Ford says the same things we all say at a certain point in life; he just says them so much better. I wish I had the talent to have written it.

"It seems to me that they are building staircases steeper than they used to," begins Mr. Ford, who, actually, was only 49 at the time. "Maybe this is because it is so much farther today from the first to the second floor, but I've noticed it is getting harder to make two steps at a time any more."

I know exactly what he means, and you do, too-or you will soon.

The author has noticed other oddities. Publishers, he says, are using smaller print.

"Newspapers are getting farther and father away when I hold them," he laments, "so I have to squint to make them out."

Time for eyeglasses? Don't be ridiculous, he scoffs.

"The only other way I can find out what's going on is to have somebody read aloud to me," he writes, "and that's not too satisfactory because people speak in such low voices these days that I can't hear them very well."

You know, I've noticed the same thing.

The clothing industry must be using cheaper materials, because his suits have shrunk in the waist and seat: "And the laces they put in shoes nowadays are harder to reach."

Golf? Forget about it: "I'm giving it up because these modern golf balls they sell are so hard to pick up when I stoop over."

The conspiracy is far-reaching and cruel: "I've had to quit driving, too; the restrooms in filling stations are getting farther and farther apart."

Decades before global warming, Mr. Ford's weather has gone haywire.

Summers are hotter; winters, colder. Rain is wetter; drafts, draftier.

("It must be the way they build windows now.")

"I'd go away," he bemoans, "if it wasn't so far."

Even worse, people are changing all around him.

"For one thing, they're younger than they used to be when I was their age....Onthe other hand, people my own age are so much older than I am."

He recalls running into his old college roommate, George, in a bar, but "he'd changed so much that he didn't recognize me."

Mr. Ford ends his piece this way: "I got to thinking about poor old George while I was shaving this morning, and I stopped for a moment and looked at my own reflection in the mirror.

"They don't seem to use the same kind of glass in mirrors any more. "

Nor do they make writers like Corey Ford.

Though he has been largely forgotten today, he was well-known for his stories, books and screenplays (Topper Takes a Trip), and he even sat in with the Algonquin Round Table.

I envy his skill with words in How to Guess Your Age. All I can do is steal his thoughts and pass them along to you.

Reach Glynn Moore at glynn.moore@morris.com.


Loading...