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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

A breath of fresh irony

It was a lovely spring afternoon one day this week, and I was squaring off with some of the chores at home that I swore I would look into as soon as I retired.

And that s exactly what I was doing. Looking into them.

Actually doing something about them is for another day.

Meanwhile, the afternoon was nearing a close, and I had a gnawing urge to return to my haunt at the mall food court for a scrumptious dinner of a turkey chef salad, topped with low-fat ranch dressing. Now maybe that doesn t sound so fantastic to you, but it s a huge departure from the typical dinners I consumed in years past.

I have found an eatery there that dishes up a great mix of turkey, some bits of bacon, a few shreds of two kinds of cheese, onions, black olives, carrots and fresh, mixed greens. And I ve probably left out a couple things. In any case, with a few dabs of very low-fat dressing, it makes for a filling, healthy dinner.

It s still hard to pass up the pizza, french fries, sub sandwiches, fried chicken nuggets, cookies, pastries and other goodies. Someday I ll share with you exactly how much weight I have lost and how much harder it is to keep if off than lose it and you ll understand.

Of course, if you ve been fighting your own battle of the bulge, you know that losing the weight is just the opening skirmish in a long struggle. And it seems that advancing age only makes the process more difficult

Retirement may make the weight fight more difficult without a job to occupy the waking, and eating, hours.

After inhaling my salad (I know I should eat slowly but some habits are hard to break), I walked a while through the mall to burn off a few calories. It was a bit stuffy and the weather shone brightly through the skylights, so I decided to head home.

I paused for a few moments at the mall entrance to the parking lot, where I was joined by one of the food vendors. I recognized him because he ladles out one of the more fattening, frozen concoctions that I regularly covet, but steer clear of.

We exchanged polite greetings and a few comments about the gorgeous weather.

I asked him if he was stepping outside for a bit of fresh air. He nodded, then lit a cigarette. The irony smacked me upside the head, but I refrained from reacting.

In the next few minutes of casual conversation, I mentioned this blog that I write on toledoblade.com and that I interact with many seniors at the mall. My new pal, probably 20 years or so away from retirement, said that he also notices the hundreds of seniors there every day.

Then he was quick to point out his own observation of irony regarding many of those seniors.

It seems that a number of retirees in very good shape remain that way by regular mall-walking. He noted that some of them are power-walkers who routinely cover five miles a day.

As an aside, five miles is almost exactly four laps around the interior periphery including the food court but not any of the stores. I know this to be true because a buddy and I actually measured it a year or so ago by walking that route with one of those rolling devices that measures distance precisely. One lap equals 1.27 miles.

In any case, my friend with the cigarette says he finds it highly ironic that the strongest and hardiest among the senior mall walkers are often the first ones to the mall in the morning and are quick to snap up the choicest handicapped parking slots.

This, he said, amuses him.

I bit my tongue when I cheerfully bid him a good day, turned into the fresh air and left him to finish his cigarette.



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