A day in the life of ...

... Sunburn, motorcycles and parking tickets

from Don Norris

Either this guy has just been in a brawl -- or he's just been released from the hospital.

Neither. The picture is Don Norris's self portrait, taken in the bathroom mirror early last month. No brawl, no recent auto accident, no rowdy argument with wife Lorry --  What his problem is, is that the doc at Lahey Clinic was concerned about increasing skin cancer, a problem that Norris has been experiencing for the last eight decades.

He's been told time after time to stay out of the sun.

She (the skin doc) wrote out a prescription the week before, telling him to apply this salve on "affected areas" twice a day for the next three months. She then scribbled the prescription and sent it off to be filled at CVS in downtown Melrose. The bill for that medium-sized tube of medicine was a dizzying one hundred and eighty seven dollars!

Well, affected areas are (obviously) his face, his scalp (he started losing his hair in his twenties), the backs of his hands, and, um, his ears. At this point, he is a week into the program -- and looks like the punch-drunk brawler pictured above.

At 84 he still takes his small motorcycle out, spending a day on the backroads. While his helmet protects his head from accidents, the sun is still beating on his face. At 84, he finds himself suddenly getting old. Joints ache. Balance is slow to come. Memory is an occasional thing. Lungs seem to need more oxygen than he can draw in after walking 50 paces. His wife has to take the trash out on Friday mornings.

It's all a new venture. Certainly not a welcome one. It is painful, the thought of 'losing it' follows him, but funny, driving either his motorcycle or the new Subaru SUV takes practically NO energy, and therefore is one of the few enjoyments left.

There was a new landmark in his life recently. The Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles broke down and mailed him a handicapped placard to hang from his windshield. He wonders if he should use it when out on the bike. He had been refused (by the state DMV) once before, so he used his new position to park in a handicapped space while getting blood drawn at the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

Nice. Easy parking right near the door.

He got in trouble late last November when on a rainy, gray Thursday morning -- no one was out shopping that day -- he parked near the front door of Target, in a handicapped zone. The ticket was on the windshield when he came out, and the issuing officer was still nearby. Don pleaded with the pseudo cop, pleading that he was well into his eighties, and was therefore qualified to park in the handicap zone. No, the cop said. The fine was $300.

He went to the Saugus Town Hall to see if he could get the erroneous ticket fixed, but no soap. The lady said he could have a meeting the the town's parking officer, but that meeting was put off due to snow storms until February. At last he got to meet the parking gentleman, who refused my argument about being 84-years old and qualified to park in handicapped zones.

Nope. No luck. Pay the $300, the man said. With that, I pounded on the table, got really mad and started shouting that I was an ex-Marine, an Eagle Scout, chairman of the libary board for some ten years, and active in all sorts of projects in Melrose.

All that made the difference.

"Well", the man said, "here's what I can do for you, Mr. Norris. I will reduce your fine -- to one hundred dollars."

Norris didn't know whether to hit the guy with his chair, or kiss him. His wife kicked him under the table and whispered "Grab it!" So that's what happened. He wrote out a check -- as a heart-broken senior citizen -- for $100 -- to the Town of Saugus, Massachusetts.

A week later the town held its municipal election -- then literally dumped, voted out of office, discarded, threw away -- twelve of the town's elected officials. Good for the people of Saugus!  

Now if they'll refund my hundred dollars, I'll be happy.

May 1, 2015

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