THE CULT OF
THE OLD PEOPLE
We thought they were our friends. In fact, we introduced them
to each other many years ago, and this is how they thank us.
At first, everything was fine. Iíd play tennis and golf
with Frank, and my wife enjoyed the company of his wife, Shirley, whom she
had known for many years.
As couples, we seemed compatible. Little did my wife and I
know that they were one of them. They had a plan, and we were unsuspecting
It started with a simple invitation to visit them in their
little winter home in Borrego Springs, California, which is located about
an hour south of Palm Springs, right in the heart of the desert. Itís a
town of about 5000 in the winter, and maybe 175 in the summer.
"The weather is perfect," Frank would say over the
phone as I looked out on another rainy winter day in Northern California.
"Come on down. Youíll love it."
So we came. Our first visit was about six years ago. The four
of us played 18 holes of golf, primarily because there was nothing else to
do, and then we walked into the clubhouse. The only other occupants were a
group of about four rather ancient women.
"Oh, look," said one woman to the others as we
walked into the room. "Here come the youngsters."
That did it. It was the first step in the brainwashing that
was necessary for my wife and I to become hooked. I was approaching 50 at
the time, and if someone wanted to call me a youngster, I was all for it.
Besides, the weather was pretty nice. My wife and I started
thinking about spending more time in Borrego Springs, which is exactly
what Frank and Shirley had in mind. In retrospect, I wonder if Frank had
planted those ladies in that clubhouse and prompted them to call us
youngsters. It wouldnít surprise me, now that I know what I know.
As the years passed, we continued to visit Frank and Shirley
in their little hamlet, and we slowly were warming up to the place. Their
plan was working perfectly. Until this year.
I donít know what happened. I think it had something to do
with the timing. We were invited to attend the celebration of the annual
re-opening of the golf course after another scorching summer that
seemingly killed every living thing within 100 miles.
"Come on down," begged Frank, who is about my age.
"It will be fun. Youíll meet lots of great people."
He sounded a bit like an Amway salesman, but I shrugged it
off. Frank was always the enthusiastic sort, and he clearly loved his
So we went, eager for some warm weather and the company of
our friends. The first inkling that something was amiss was when we
arrived for the party celebrating the opening of the season.
"Itís SO GOOD to see you," I heard over and over
from one person to another as they saw each other for the first time after
returning from their summer exile.
Of course, that is perfectly natural. What made it unsettling
was the tone of surprise in their voice. It was obvious that neither one
expected the other to live long enough to return.
These were some old folks. Now I have nothing against old
people, since I certainly hope to be one someday, but Iím not ready, and
I pointed this out to Frank.
"There are plenty of young people around," he
replied, placing a conspiratorial hand on my shoulder. "Look at Chuck
and Susan over at that table. Theyíre about our age."
Suddenly, it all became clear to me. Chuck and Susan, like
Frank and Shirley, had succumbed to the Cult of the Old People. They were
at a table with four other couples, all far older than they were.They were
laughing and having fun, just like the Moonies did when I was in college.
I glanced at Frank, who had turned his attention to a dashing
gentleman who had to turn 80 to be called dashing. They both glanced at
me, and I knew what they were discussing---new blood.
Dinner was served, and dinner was over. I looked at my watch.
It was 7:30. Time for dancing to the live band. As the clock struck 9:00,
and my wife and I were beginning to loosen up, Frank and Shirley informed
us it was time to go home.
"Itís Borrego midnight," Frank said cheerily as
he shepherded us to the car. "Early to bed, early to rise."
Right then and there, I resolved to fight any further
attempts to drag me into their cult. At least for another year or two,