In last week’s post I wrote, “Age alone does not make you irrelevant.” Apparently the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration doesn’t agree. In January, it declared that travelers older than 75 no longer have to take off their shoes to pass through airport security. In its infinite wisdom, our government has decided that after our 74th year, we are officially no longer capable of doing serious harm in the world.
“Don’t deny it,” wrote humorist Calvin Trillin (77) in the New York Times. “That’s exactly what the T.S.A. was thinking: We don’t have to worry about this codger. Let the old guy right through. He can keep on those orthopedic clodhoppers he moseys around in. Why, a bomb would probably slip out of his hands anyway, what with all that arthritis…Also, the way his memory’s been lately, he’s likely to forget about the bomb until he’s standing at the luggage carousel, watching the bags go around and wondering if he’d just gotten off the Greyhound to Des Moines.”
Calvin Trillin hasn’t lost his bite, and neither have a lot of other people who can now breeze through American airport security. Take 89-year-old Zimbabwe dictator and strongman Robert Mugabe, for example. He's been accused of gutting his nation's economy for personal gain, imprisoning and/or murdering political opponents and their families, and unleashing a rein of terror throughout the land. I'm not saying he's admirable, I'm just saying age has not withered him. If I were the T.S.A., I'd want to take a good, long look at his shoes before I let him board one of my planes.
Although I've got a long way to go before I reach the you-can-keep-your-shoes-on age myself, it seems pretty clear to me that lots of septuagenarians and octogenarians are keeping busy without mall walking or Sudoku. Take actor Sir Anthony Hopkins; he's featured in eight movies since 2012, including starring roles in major films about Hitchcock and Hemingway. But of course, he’s most famous for his character Hannibal Lecter, often rated as the number one movie villain of all time.
Hopkins turned 75 on December 31. Go ahead. Call him harmless. I dare you.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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