THE BACK PAGE: Sounds of the 60s! (and 70s and 80s…)
BY BRUCE STEINBERG
it seems the Courthouse Cafeteria Lawyers, all men these days, have taken things on the road – from the courthouse cafeteria to the Tap House Grill in St. Charles, Illinois. We’ve done so because of our most esteemed member, one Attorney Van R. Richards, who is a Korean War vet, a former collegiate elite-caliber high-jumper, life-long exerciser (with an intellect suitable to claim the title of a Renaissance Man for All Seasons), has retired from the practice of law, at which he was so expert. And with retirement, perhaps a different venue was needed for our Courthouse Cafeteria Lawyer meetings, now ironically, not in the courthouse cafeteria.
Not without his ailments, retired from his caseload but still in the game with exercise and learning (more than I and the rest of our group combined will ever know), Van is our senior member at age 80-close-to-90 something. The rest of us are in our 40s through 60s. There is at least one other runner besides myself in this group, and a couple of mostly long-sedentary guys who consider “being into sports” the act of setting up the salsa, chips and beer for the big game on television, whatever that big game happens to be, including these days, HGTV.
But here is something I noticed during a chance moment when all five of us were in the act of sitting down at our Tap House Grill table at the same time: From our knees, the snap, crackle and pop of a bass drum; from our ankles, the higher pitch tings and pings of the flute and piccolo; and from our remaining joints, hips, spine, elbows, wrists and who-knows-what-else, a cacophony of sounds emulating an orchestra of dropped instruments and knocked-over music stands.
But wait, there’s more!
I’m not the first to coin the phrase, and undoubtedly won’t be the last to say it as such, but from the collective group of lungs, throats and mouths of the Courthouse (formerly) Cafeteria Lawyers came the “Old Man Noises.” For a while now, these sounds we make seem routinely choreographed to our sitting and standing, bending and turning and sometimes while just sitting there waiting for the light to turn green. Like breathing and blinking, these sounds have become automatic, unthinking responses to the movement of the more “mature” man.
Our talk, once about cases, judges, and prosecutors, has turned to surgeries past, present and future; the ones we’ve had and worked out well or didn’t work out so well, the others we need now but worry causes us to delay their scheduling and the ones we will never get because so-and-so had that surgery and now his joints belt out the finale to The 1812 Overture just when he turns a page in his AARP magazine.
I have issued the challenge now and then, to ask these fine men to stand or sit without making a sound. With effort, the grunts and groans are contained, but not too unlike a successfully suppressed belch that, though silent, leaves the face contorted. Less successful are the joints. No matter how slow and smooth the sitting or the standing occurs, a pop or ping squeaks out and we’re left red-faced, as though we had passed gas in church on Sunday.
Now, my extensive research on this, comprising a three-minute Google search, about a minute longer than my usual effort, reveals that joint creaks and pings are mere bubbles popping, small ones. And this, per the research, can be a good thing, a neutral thing or a bad thing, which is par for the course for online medical research.
Recently, though, we’ve solved the problem for all of us. When we meet and gather around our table, we first call for the server, ask him or her to crank the music and once cranked, only then do we sit – problem solved!
Last Saturday, I was at a writer’s group meeting, and my friend Stacy sat down next to me. In doing so, she grunted and sighed, and at least two of her joints played a moment of disharmony. Ever-so-matter-of-factly, she turned to me and asked, “Have you ever heard of ‘Old Lady Noise’?”
It’s good to know we’re all in this orchestra together.