Apr 1, 2020

The ‘R’ Word Redefined for the Isolation Age

Does “retire” mean to just get tired all over again?

By Ed Goldman

I think the definition of the word “retire” should be “to get weary again.”?

The difference would be that this time around, you’d be getting weary of doing things you actually enjoy, not working at a job you finally got to leave. 

This is not a slam on people who genuinely liked or even loved their jobs. It’s just that by its very nature—indeed, the very word—a “job” is work, not leisure. It’s why we use the word ironically to describe everyone from an overeater (“Man, he really did a job on those plant-based spare ribs”) to an accident-prone driver (“Wow, you did quite a job on your Tesla Model Y’s ignition coil”). We’re saying that to have “accomplished” what these people did, they’d have had to work at it. As though it were a job. 

Let’s face it, some people arrive at retirement age completely exhausted. The very idea of going on rigorous expeditions via companies like Overseas Adventure Travel can make the already wiped-out retiree slip into a comfy pair of yoga pants and voluntary coma.


“You mean to tell me that after 45 years of selling dental floss in 50 states, my ‘reward’ is to go on a trip that’ll involve my crossing the International Dateline—on my way to Tasmania, Australia and New Zealand—followed by my cruising the notorious Drake Passage between Antarctica and South America with its unpredictable weather patterns and 600-ft. ocean waves? What don’t you like about me, Universe?”

Photo courtesy of Best Best & Krieger

I hasten to point out that these are the exact vacations my closest friend, Sacramento-based attorney Joe Coomes, now 87, took on his 81st and 82nd birthdays, respectively. And he’s always loved his job (he’s currently of counsel to Best Best & Krieger).

The whole retirement issue is fresh on my mind because of what I hope future anthropologists will refer to as The Isolation Age. In addition to at first strongly requesting people at least 65 years old to stay home, the restrictions soon expanded to requiring (not requesting) that “non-essential businesses” be closed immediately and for everyone to really really really stay the hell home until further scary notice.

Now, what you and I consider to be “non-essential” businesses may be slightly different (bars being among them, which I’ve always found mandatory) but I think we can all agree that writing a syndicated column, as I do, is far from an essential business. It may be to me, of course, but that’s only because I make a veritable fortune from those Google ads they slap onto the column (I think my tech guy and I split a check for $9.82 in residuals last month). But since the bars are closed, we won’t be out spending our windfall.    

I’m sure you know those Google ads—as opposed to the partnership the column is currently enjoying with Golden Pacific Bank—vary from reader to reader, depending on your record of online purchases or site exploration. For example, some readers may see a lot of ads for hair restoration (presumably to take place on their heads), while others may be inundated with ads for “how to easily clean earwax” and “easy-to-use loan origination.”

Those last two popped up on my own online feed of the column the other day, by the way. I’m still trying to figure out the connection or what my past buying would indicate about me. Maybe I expressed an interest in an earwax cleaning system but knew I couldn’t afford to buy one without a co-signer.

Okay, let’s wrap this up. 

I’m not going to retire because it wouldn’t look appreciably different from what my life is like now, just as self-isolating or sheltering in place is basically what a writer does, at any age. Unless he’s as adventurous as an attorney in his 80s, that is.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).