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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Invisible Man (And Woman)


Visibility decreases with age. In fact, I believe people gain warp speed to invisibility around age 60. At that age, most things that are important are no longer accessible anyway. A sexagenarian is still a part of everyday life but not really. Politics, media, pastimes -- most everything is now shooting past the sixty year old who is occasionally attempting to flag down some life in the present tense but who is out of the mainstream so much that others just pretty much act as if the geezer is not there. Eventually, age makes a person almost completely invisible.

I remember the movie The Invisible Man. In the movie, Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin, who takes the drug "monocane" and goes on a spree of terror, running down the streets killing, robbing, and reciting nursery rhymes in a very malicious voice. In the end, Griffin is taken to a hospital where, on his deathbed, he admits that he has tampered with a type of science that was meant to be left alone. The effects of the monocane wear off the moment he dies, and he becomes visible once again.

Aging does not turn a person into acting like Dr. Jack Griffin. At least most geezers I know don't turn into homicidal maniacs. Instead, the invisible people merely begin to fade from utility and accept their fate as being "over the hill." People can still see invisible geezers, they just don't really acknowledge them much. Younger folk seem to walk around them, talk around them, and generally put up with them. The invisible become the expensive but harmless baggage of the younger generations.


Being invisible is not all bad. It allows people the luxury viewing the world without worrying about participating in it. The invisibility can allow older folk to be privy to a boatloads of information. Consider the great advantage of being assumed to be hard of hearing. The invisible often use this to their advantage by pretending to be deaf to interesting conversations. Then, they can listen to many things that otherwise they would not have been privileged to hearing. All they have to do to reinforce their status is mouth an occasional "Huh?" or "What did you say?"

Also, being invisible allows people to limit their activities and thus reduce the expectations others have of their abilities. This is a real plus. It serves to free up time for important personal interests. Imagine your life becoming simpler because others just assume you are not supposed to be a part of their existence. That allows the invisible to ignore so-called "important matters." It's like being chauffeured through the golden years. "Yes, Chives, take the wheel. I'll be sitting back here reading my book or taking my nap. Let me know when we arrive."

The greatest thing about being invisible is that every now and then the invisible can choose to reveal themselves. Now, this is a win-win situation for the inconspicuous. A carefully chosen revelation is either going to draw some nugget of appreciation or be dismissed as misguided raving. It's geezer opinion, so it doesn't really count anyway. What a wonderful feeling it is to inject an occasional opinion that is so old that it seems fresh, or silly, as the case may be. The invisible must be careful to avoid cliche if they want to seriously make a point. In other words, they shouldn't begin their noticeable moments with "Let me tell you how it used to be" or "Back in the good old days." Those words kill the deal immediately.

I remember the days before my mostly covert life. I would lend little credence to the words of the invisible myself. After all, then I thought being out of style was being out of place. I thought the older people had already had their time in the sun. The world was mine then. At least that's what I thought.

How could I have been so shallow? I really don't know. I guess visible people have to deal with that problem. Now, as an unobservable one, I can chalk that fault up to living in the real world once upon a time ago. Hey, now I'm invisible and I have better things to occupy my time than traipsing through the bone yards of my past. "What did you say?"


"you used to be so amused
at napoleon in rags
and the language that he used
go to him now he calls you can't refuse

"when you got nothing
you got nothing to lose
you’re invisible now you
got no secrets to conceal

"How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone"

"Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan


"I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, 
fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind.
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." - Ralph Ellison
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