I just turned 70 and am already getting sick of people telling me I don't look it.
I always believed that people don't change. But now I know I was wrong. I have changed. I am bad tempered, abrasive, less patient, less tolerant, grumpier and angrier than I used to be.
I could never go mano a mano with Andy Rooney, but I'm clearly morphing in that direction. I'm becoming a more accomplished curmudgeon by the day.
Many of my contemporaries have taken desperate measures to ward off this state of being: golf, gardening, bridge, mixed doubles.
I can't say I've come up with a compelling alternative. Friends advise me to write my memoirs: 44 years as a foreign correspondent. But whenever I come across a book of war stories told by an aging hack, I run as fast as I can to the fiction section. Actually, that's where most of these sad testimonials belong -- in the fiction section.
Then there's the prospect of teaching journalism. Some of my erstwhile colleagues have landed cushy jobs in "Communications Departments." But deep down, they know that journalism can't be taught. You're either born with the pathology or you're not.
Some of my friends go to the gym between doctor appointments. But that's another delusion. For the likes of us, fitness is finished. Besides, these days, I find getting out of breath extremely disagreeable. Go to a movie. If you've seen them all, there must be one worth seeing again.
Long walks on flat terrain are still pleasant. Beaches are particularly good. But set out alone or with your contemporaries. Young people walk too fast.
I am just a novice in curmudgeonhood, but feel I can already offer some helpful hints to those coming my way:
- Good books, music and soft armchairs are recommended. Happily, all three can go together.
- Seek out the company of animals. They never lie or let you down.
- Besides, they don't care how old you are.
- Remember that swimming pools are designed for dipping and keeping cool, not for doing laps.
- Beautiful women? Absolutely. Never stop looking. Just try to forget that they used to look back.
- Skip those annual checkups. You don't need a doctor to tell you what you already know. It's not going to get any better.
But there is a bottom line and here's what it is: Keep working as long as the youngsters will have you. They should know that while you may not run as fast as you did 20 years ago, you're a lot smarter now. And if they don't see it, show 'em.
Bob Simon just returned from a month-long trip overseas where 60 MINUTES assignments took him to Israel, the West Bank and Japan. Now in his 45th year at CBS News, he begins his 16th season on 60 MINUTES in the fall.