Volume 44, Issue 8 - August 2009

Getting Old
by Lyle R. Hill

I reached for it before it could finish its first ring … “Lyle Hill, may I help you?”

“Hey old man, is it really you?” the early morning caller asked.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I said quickly recognizing the caller’s voice. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“Well to be honest with you,” the caller continued, “I didn’t expect to find you in this early in the morning.”

“It’s almost eight o’clock,” I answered. “That’s really not all that early.”

“It is for someone your age, Hill. You should really start to take it a little easier … slow down a bit.”

“And what, might I ask, makes you think that I’m any older than you?”

“Have you looked in the mirror lately, Hill?”

I’ve known John Luckett for more than 20 years and if I am indeed older than him, it can’t be by more than a couple of months. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out he’s actually older than me. But it doesn’t matter. He’s got this hang-up about me being an old, worn out guy while he somehow thinks of himself as this young, energetic dynamo who never ages. Now don’t get me wrong … Luckett is a solid businessperson and not to be taken lightly. He’s a tough competitor who runs a tight ship and has built quite a reputation for himself, but this old man stuff is … well, getting a little old!

“Listen Luckett, I’m pretty busy here so what do you want?”

“Busy with what, Hill?”

“Stuff, Luckett. I’m busy doing stuff.”

“Okay old-timer, tell me the truth. What kind of stuff were you doing just now when I called?”

“What’s it to you what I was doing?” I shot back.

“Cause I just want to know … someday I’m going to be old like you and I’d like to know what guys do in their office early in the morning when they get to be your age.”

I actually like John Luckett. He’s a little crazy but, then again, who isn’t? On more than one occasion he’s been there when I needed a little help and never asked for anything in return. He’s a true friend and I don’t throw those words around all that easily.

“Okay, Luckett, I’m going to tell you the truth, but I don’t want to hear any smart remarks about it.”

“I’m listening, Hill.”

“I was cleaning the keys on my calculator.”

“Say what, Hill?”

“I said … I was cleaning the keys on my calculator. They were quite grimy.”

“Wow. It must be even worse than I thought, Hill.”

“Well, business is bad, Luckett. It’s bad for everybody.”

“No Hill, I’m not talking about business. I’m talking about getting old.”

“That’s it. I’m hanging up now.”

“Whoa, Hill. Hold on. I actually called ’cause I’ve got a few things to tell you. Things you might know.”

“Like what, Luckett?”

“OK, first thing is this: guy called me the other day and read me this quote I really thought was good. He said he thought it came from you. I said it sounded like you but I wasn’t sure you were the first to say it.”

“Let me hear it.”

“Here it is: ‘A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it starts to rain.’”

“I wish it had been me, but it was not. The great Mark Twain gets credit for that one. What else, Luckett?”

“Okay, here’s another one the guy said came from you: ‘Life is like a coconut. One day you fall from the tree and the rest of your days are spent wherever the currents of fate take you.’ Was that you, Hill?”

“Not me on this one either, Luckett. I actually heard that one from Bob Heider of Sealant Engineering last summer. We were at a jobsite being lectured on the proper use of structural silicones by a 25-year-old architect. I remember telling Bob that I thought the guy had a coconut for a brain and then he hit me with the life is like a coconut thing.”

“Good enough, Hill, but one last thing and then I’ll let you go back to cleaning your calculator. This recession thing we’re in … it really is getting old. How much longer do you think it’s gonna last?”

“How am I supposed to know, Luckett?”

“Cause you’ve been around so long, Hill. You must have been through a few of these by now.”

“I have been through a couple of downturns but I’ve never seen anything like this. My guess is we’ve got another year or so to go and it might get worse for some of us before it gets better.”

“Got any advice old man?”

“Yeah I do, Luckett. Hang on to your umbrella!”

Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago. Mr. Hill's opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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