Upon reaching the age of fifty, American half-centenarians are invited to join the American Association of Retired Persons; even if, like most of their fellow citizens, actual retirement is a psychotropic pipe dream requiring the most elaborate of ceremonial hookahs.
In fact, when optimistically planning the remote possibility of my own retirement I usually imagine myself confronted by the hashish-imbibing, mushroom dwelling Caterpillar from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.
Like many people in America, I won't be able to consider retiring until I'm just a brain attached to electrodes in a jar of formaldehyde. My meager pension savings will hopefully run to paying for some robot to keep the formaldehyde topped up, but that's probably about as far the money will go. And I'm one of the lucky ones.
So when an American Association of Retired Persons membership form addressed to me arrived in the mail, I tossed it aside.
Until I noticed the free insulated tote bag they were offering as part of their $15 sign-up package. This insulated tote bag appeared to be quite sizable in the picture supplied, containing a veritable cornucopia of edible delights and able to keep a bottle of water cool.
Now, I wasn't born yesterday – I'm obviously fifty or wouldn't be receiving American Association of Retired Persons literature in the first place! – but I figured it might be worth wasting the $15 subscription fee just to see how absurdly unlike its alluring picture the free tote bag would actually prove to be.
You're no doubt thinking I'd be better off depositing that $15 in the paltry pension fund I've been complaining about. But the satisfaction of knowingly being ripped off is often how I get my cynical kicks in these days of middle age.
Anyway, six weeks later, the free tote bag duly arrived along with my American Association of Retired Persons membership card. Although not quite as capacious as pictured, its dimensions were surprisingly reasonable and even well-insulated for $15.
True, such a bag wasn't big enough to be employed for family picnics, but I could certainly cram a lunchtime apple, banana, and a can of sardines within its confines. The whole business was a bit of an anticlimax considering I'd expected – nay hoped for – an outrageously tiny and worthless piece of polyester junk that I could ridicule on this very blog.
But then I suppose after years of the daily grind actual retirement must be an anticlimax too; of which my free American Association of Retired Persons tote bag is obviously an insulated harbinger.