[A note to newcomers and return visitors to this piece: Why is this piece far and away the most viewed of all the pieces on this site? I am curious. Comments are more than welcome.]
One fall afternoon I was changing my clothes at the Y next to an elderly man. He had a pair of flip-flops for going to the showers and the pool, and I had been looking to buy a new pair ever since my last one had come apart a few months earlier. I asked the man where he had bought his flip-flops. He wouldn’t tell me. It was clear he did not like divulging such personal information to a man he didn’t know who was changing his clothes right next to him.
He did say, however, that flip-flops are much easier to find in stores in the summer, and for that reason, at the beginning of every summer he buys two pairs, in case something happens to the first one. This struck me as very old-man-like: to have such a detailed understanding of life in general and the desire and the ability to so carefully regulate one’s own particular existence.
The young woman I live with boasts to our friends that—with my computerized list of favorite restaurants, my files of maps, train schedules, product instruction manuals, travel brochures—I am the most organized person she has ever known. Though still in my mid-forties—and not at all happy about the increasing pains and stiffness, the thinning hair—yet there in the Y lockerroom. I liked the idea that it wouldn’t be too many more summers before I would be buying two pairs of flip-flops.