By Hannah Reich Berman
My mother would often say that as she aged, she found that she was talking to herself more often. I didn’t get it back then, but I do now. I realize that she didn’t mean that she was holding long conversations with herself. Nor did it mean that she was asking questions of herself and then answering them. Now that I have joined the ranks of those who talk to themselves, it is clear to me that my mom meant that she occasionally expressed a thought aloud.
I’m not sure why that happens more as we age, but it might have something to do with the fact that as we age we may find ourselves alone more often. In my case, it may be a hereditary trait, as in, my mother did it so I do it too. Whatever the reason, it is happening to me. This is not to be confused with my pre-Pesach talking to myself as I walk the aisles in the supermarket. That is an entirely separate issue that occurs annually.
Home alone when I heard the news about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I was horrified. All I could do was mutter, “Oh no, not again.” And then, “Oh my G‑d, what’s happening to our world.” Unable to help myself, my thoughts refused to simply remain in my head; they became comments in spite of the fact that nobody was nearby to hear them. This is a phenomenon that is happening with increasing frequency. In fact, it happens to me at least three times a week; every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Those are my garbage pickup days.
On those days, I leave my house and discover that the lids to my garbage cans are anywhere but where they belong. One would think that just once the sanitation men would get it right and replace the lids. But they are nothing if not consistent, so the lids are always on the ground. At these times I find the need to vent out loud. And since nobody else is there, I realize that I am doing what my mother did; I am talking to myself. Be advised that this venting (or ranting) is not limited to garbage pails and their lids. I also find myself doing it in parking lots.
When I park my car in a lot, I always take care to leave a reasonable distance between my car and the vehicles on either side of the slot I have selected. I don’t expect to return to my car after shopping and find that I am wedged in between two thoughtless souls who decided to park within ten inches of my car. How my new parking-lot neighbors managed to exit their own cars is anyone’s guess, but evidently they are not large people. I, on the other hand, have been blessed with excess adipose tissue and can’t squeeze through a space less than a foot wide. As a result, at moments such as those, I become a regular Rashi; my commentary knows no bounds.
But there is one parking-lot scenario that is even worse than the aforementioned one. It is when the car next to my driver’s side is too close for me to even open my door but there is somewhat more space on the passenger side. This is really bad news! I would be better off if I couldn’t open either door. If I’m in a rush, I have been known to open the passenger door, squeeze my ample self into the car, and then make an attempt to climb over the center console to get into the driver’s seat. You haven’t lived if you haven’t seen this! The last time it happened, I hoped that nobody was watching as I was attempting this near-impossible feat, because I got a muscle spasm in my leg. And then I wasn’t just talking to myself, I was screaming and crying aloud as I prayed for the cramp to ease up.
My new predilection for talking to myself is not always at times of frustration, stress, or sadness. It occasionally happens at moments of joy or success. I recently saw what I suspected was a horsefly on the inside of my window screen. By definition, a horsefly is one that is large and swift. It was a fly and it was large but, as it was stationary when I spotted it, I have no idea if it was swift. Nevertheless, whether it was a horsefly or an ordinary, garden-variety housefly, I did not want it in my house.
So I raced to the window and hurriedly slammed it shut, trapping the thing between the screen and the glass pane. “Gotcha!” I shouted, although I was reasonably sure the fly didn’t understand English. But that wasn’t the end of it. The following day, having forgotten all about the fly (these days memory is not my strong suit) I opened the window to let in some fresh air. And there was the fly, lying dead, on the inside of the sill. When I spotted it, I smiled as I crowed, “Serves you right. Next time stay outside, where you belong!” I said this despite the fact that for this fly there would not be a next time.
My most recent episode of talking to myself had nothing to do with success, joy, or frustration. It happened just a few days ago and it was anger that prompted me to talk to myself. I was listening to the local news when the anchorman reported that an elderly woman had been killed in a car crash because a young unlicensed teenager had gotten behind the wheel of a stolen car and had broadsided her. I gave my usual out loud “tsk tsk.” “Tsk tsks” are an automatic reaction whenever I hear bad news. But my “tsk tsks” gained momentum and turned into a full dialogue as the reporter provided his listeners with more information. He added that the woman was 70 years old.
When I heard him say that, I couldn’t control myself. “Since when is 70 considered elderly?” I shrieked. And I wasn’t just speaking out loud—I was yelling out loud. After I calmed down, I thought, “Why didn’t he refer to her as middle-aged?” Then I remembered someone once jokingly saying that once we reach age 50 we can no longer be considered middle-aged since few people live to be 100. True enough!
Even if we continue to view 50 as middle aged, surely we need to draw the line somewhere. We can’t say it about being 60, because it’s rare that anyone lives to be 120. Moshe Rabbeinu did that, which is the reason that we Jews wish each other ad meah ve’esrim (until 120). But, like it or not (and I do not)—most assuredly, at 70, we are elderly! Looks like I’ll continue to talk to myself! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.