Geezer Nation

Give me your old, your arthritic, your wrinkled masses yearning to be in bed by eight.
GTT for the AARP: Will an influx of retirees make Texas the first sovereign republic of old farts?
Illustration by Gilbert Ford

Texas attracted 6.8 percent of America’s migrant retirees in the 2005 data, up from 4.8 percent in 2000. Florida’s share is much higher but shrinking. It drew 16.6 percent of retirees in 2005, down from 19.1 percent in 2000... “If Texas ever devoted the right resources to selling itself as a retirement destination, the results would be enormous,” [consultant Gene] Warren said. —“Texas Leaps to No. 2 as Place to Retire,” Dallas Morning News, May 29, 2007

Welcome, newcomers! Just to make sure we’re in the right place, this is the Willie Nelson Memorial Complex, room 203. You all, or “y’all,” as the few remaining native Texans down here like to say—and, side note, if you do get the chance to meet one of these colorful individuals, by all means take it. My director of development spotted one the other day all done up in his native regalia. Even had the wad of Skoal in the cheek, spitting into a cup. Loved it.

Anyway, where was I? Right, check your schedules, everyone. You should be signed up for the naturalization class, to become citizens of the Sovereign Republic of Snowbirdlandia.

What’s that, Heather? No, The Joy of Octogenarian Sex is in the Polident Annex. Oh, okay. Could someone please give Heather a jump? The battery on her Rascal is dead.

Couple of announcements before we get going: As of this Friday, the Generation Gap Grill will be starting its early-bird special—$2 off on the Boomer Buffet!—an hour earlier, at three-thirty instead of four-thirty, for all of you who want to get home in time for Jeopardy! and CSI: Brownsville reruns.

Here’s one from Visas and Immigration: “Please tell your visitors to get their visa applications in early. Children, grandchildren, and inhalation therapists under 62 absolutely must have a visa to cross the border.” No exceptions, people. If they don’t have a visa, our militia boys won’t let them in. Let’s do our best to keep those Taser-related deaths to a minimum.

And our last bit of business. One of our most loyal sponsors, La Farmacia Fantástica y Discoteca, says that the twelve o’clock bus crossing the border today into Snowbirdlandia del Sur will be ten minutes late.

Okay, gang, let’s start with the basics. Who can tell me what Snowbirdlandia is? Yes, you there in the biking shorts, hold up your sign.

Dwight from Montauk! Welcome, sir, and I do apologize. Those aren’t biking shorts, are they? That’s just an adult diaper straining your Bermudas. You are absolutely right, sir! Snowbirdlandia is the world’s first gerontocracy. But allow me to make one correction, Dwight. We no longer say that Snowbirdlandia is a government of the old, for the old, by the old. As of June 1, all such ageist speech will be illegal. We are a government of, for, and by the forever young. Make a note of that. You’ll lose points big time on the naturalization exam for using ageist terms like “senior citizen” or “golden oldie.”

Moving on, here is a brief brushup on our history. Snowbirdlandia was formed shortly after most of Florida was submerged and Arizona was occupied by the Mormons. The vast numbers of retirees moving into the Texas counties where grapefruit are grown and cheap Mexican drugs are easily available decided to secede from the United States of America. There were a number of reasons for this—more than most of us can remember—but let’s review the key ones.

First off, Social Security went bankrupt. Then, after the Full Body Transplant was perfected and we were hanging onto all the good jobs and most of the world’s assets well into our nineties and beyond, the Slackers and Echo Boomers—basically, our children and grandchildren—staged the Recent Unpleasantness. They laid siege to our Sun Cities and RV parks; they formed the Soylent Green Party with that awful motto “Don’t scare the old folk, it makes the meat tough.” Was that called for? The final straw, though, was when President Chelsea Clinton raised the draft age to 65 and started sending us to be “peacekeepers” in the third Iraq-Iran War. Or, no, that’s not right. What are they calling it now? The Containment. Anyway, that really tore it and we seceded.

But we learned our lesson and don’t want to alienate anyone again. So even though we vastly outnumber the few former Texans who still live here, we must remain sensitive to their feelings. This leads me to some important questions on the exam having to do with the most annoying thing a newcomer can say to a native. Is it: (1) “I miss seasons,” (2) “I miss curds,” or (3) “Is a decent bagel too much to ask for?”

Tracy from St. Petersburg, you’ve got your hand up. No, I’m sorry, the answer is none of the above. The most annoying thing a new Snowbirdlander can say to a native Texan is “Aren’t you glad we raised the voting age to sixty-five and lowered the speed limit to eighteen?” Also, just FYI, never mention the fact that, since secession, Texas is now smaller than Oklahoma. Or Arkansas. Actually, folks, just never mention Arkansas to a native, period.

Hello, Gerald from Minneapolis, you have a question? Could I lower the heat? Okay, gang, quiet down, quiet down. Stop laughing. Gerald hasn’t been in country very long. Gerald, the short answer is, legally, no, I cannot turn the heat down. According to the law, all public buildings are required to maintain a constant temperature of no less than 88 degrees.

You don’t have to tell me it’s crazy. I’m up here sweating like Joan of Arc. But we voted on it fair and square. What can I tell you, guys? Buy a tank top or outlive your wives.

Yes, Tiffany from Boise? You’re right— payback is a bitch.

Now, a couple of easy ones. What’s the official font size of Snowbirdlandia. That’s right, by law, every printed letter, number, and symbol must be a very readable 72 points, or

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