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My old fogey list

Liz Lerner

I’ve always disliked the expression “bucket list,’ the phrase popularly used to describe those things one would like to do before one, well, “kicks the bucket.” I dislike it because, to me, it implies that one has spent most of one’s life not doing the things one would most liked to have done.

I much prefer what I call the Old Fogey List. Unlike “bucket lists,” an Old Fogey List tells you, not what you haven’t done, but who you are. I find it not only easier, but even pleasurable to share old fogey lists. So, for all you old fogies, or even young fogies out there, here’s some items on my list:

1. I still fill out my income tax forms by hand, doing a draft in pencil first. I do this in part because I have heard that the IRS isn’t as likely to audit you if you fill out your forms by hand. This may or may not be true, but it’s a comforting thought.

2. I still write checks. The other day I handed one to a young checkout person at Stop N Shop. He looked at it as though I had handed him something written in Sanskrit, and had to call over an assistant manager to show him how to process it.

3. I still read The Boston Globe, the paper edition, every morning, usually the front section, and if that gets too much for me, I turn to the comics page, which is usually more informative. I refuse to get The New York Times because it refuses to carry comics.

4. Baseball is still my favorite sport and the Red Sox are still my favorite team. My favorite way of enjoying the game, even more than being at Fenway Park, is on the radio, listening to longtime Sox announcer Joe Castiglione, whose voice I find deeply comforting. Though he is a decade younger than me, Joe’s speech reminds me of the way my father’s generation spoke.

5. I hate new cars. Everything about them is digital and non-intuitive, which means you have to look at a dashboard screen to switch radio stations, regulate the temperature, or activate your Bluetooth (if you have one, which I do not.). State law forbids you from texting while driving, but operating contemporary dashboards forces you to look away from the road. I wouldn’t be surprised if I died one day in my car trying to switch from This American Life to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

6. As a writer, I have always written my first draft of a book by hand. I figure that over the years I have written more than ten miles of script. But with the progressive effects of aging, I find this is changing. My penmanship, never great, has grown steadily worse in recent years, and is getting to the point where even I can’t decipher my handwriting.

I’m told that Renoir had his paintbrush tied to his arthritic hands so that he could continue to paint in old age. I can’t do the same with a fountain pen, so I have gradually come to use one of those voice-to-text-programs called (and this may be the worst brand-name ever) “Dragon Naturally Speaking.” This program has a personality almost as distinctive as that of a real person. For one thing, Dragon Naturally Speaking is programmed never to write computer gibberish. Rather, it is compelled to try to make sense out of what I have less than distinctly said. Over the years this has led to some pretty hilarious interpretations. For example: once while describing the tidal flats, I spoke the phrase “a gelatinous mass of algae,’ which the computer program transformed into “a Latin mass for angels.” So delightful are these computer-generated malapropisms that I have saved the best ones in a separate file that I doubt I will ever use — which strikes me as a very old fogey thing to do.

A nature writer living in Wellfleet, Robert Finch has written about Cape Cod for more than forty years. He is the author of nine books of essays. A Cape Cod Notebook airs weekly on WCAI, the NPR station for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and the South Coast. In both 2006 and 2013, the series won the New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.