We’ve all had the nightmares. They shuffle toward you, grasping with outstretched limbs. Mouths agape, drool glistening on their chins, they inch closer. Their filmy eyes sunken in their skulls and their withered, sagging flesh draped loosely on their decaying skeletons. Your heart pounds as you realize there is no way to escape. The claw-like hands finally grab you and the last thing you hear are the rasping words, “How ya, doin’, Sonny?”
Old people. Everyone’s biggest fear. I recently faced a swarm of them and lived to tell the tale. But since not everyone knows how to face these sad reminders of our own mortality, I’ve decided to put together a Survival Guide for my faithful readers.

The first step in surviving contact with old people is to never see them. There are a three gray-haired nests you should avoid at all costs:
•    Pharmacies – Old people love pills. They also love John Grisham novels. Pharmacies have both.

•    Diners – Senior citizens will slowly cross three lanes of traffic for cheap food. Diners are especially dangerous between the hours of 4 and 6 pm, which is prime oldster feeding time. Avoid any place that advertises a “Blue Plate Special,” “Meatloaf,” or “Tipping Optional.” *

•    Florida – The faintly beating heart of the elderly. The entire state is a no-go… but honestly, you’re not missing much.

If you’re forced to comingle with individuals over the age of 70, your best hope of avoiding detection is to blend in. Here are some props to assist your cloaking strategy.
•    Butterscotch Candies – No one enjoys these unless they are on Social Security. Line your pockets with these little golden beauties and the sweet scent of processed sugar mixed with resigned despair will convince the Greatest Generation that you’re one of their own.

•    Reading Glasses – Attach a chain to a pair of bifocals and wear them like a medal of honor around your neck. To aid in the deception, be sure to loudly ask everyone you encounter to help you find them.

•    Tommy Bahama Shirt – These roomy, apron-like shirts announce to the world: “I’m on a permanent vacation.” When combined with sweatpants, knee-high socks and Velcro sneakers, it completes the uniform of choice for the old. NOTE: If you don’t feel comfortable appearing in public without a tie, simply wear one of these underneath your dress shirt – that way you can quickly Clark Kent into disguise should you stumble upon a chance game of canasta, shuffleboard, or “speed” chess.

From time to time you might accidentally blow your cover. Maybe you took a bite of an apple without first taking your teeth out, or reflexively turned on your car’s blinker before making a turn, or got caught checking out a chick whose rack was situated ABOVE her kneecaps. Whatever the case, when the jig is up you’ll need to defend yourself. Here are some items to help foil even the most persistent geriatric:
•    Remote Control – Next to immigrants, nothing scares old people more than technology. If you find yourself cornered, hand them one of these puppies and ask them to put on Turner Classic Movies. The frustration of all those buttons coupled with the hopeful excitement of catching a re-run of “The Lawrence Welk Show” will have them on their giant-numbered phones asking their children for help in 30 seconds flat. That’s when you escape.

•    Any Music Made After 1963 – Covering their ears, they’ll kvetch about all the “yelling” and the “screaming” in this “new fangled” music. During the ensuing cacophony, run for the exit… or take a leisurely stroll – if you rupture your Achilles sprinting away from a broken-hipped octogenarian you’ll never live it down.

•    Bran Flakes – If there’s one thing old people want to do more than to share unsolicited and vaguely racist sentiments, it’s to once again enjoy the bowel movement of a 20-year-old. Throw out a box of flakes and a carafe of prune juice and make haste as they make waste.© Barney Stinson

Find the nearest baby and throw it at them. The only thing more interesting to them than a young person is an even younger person.

*Looking your way, Ted.