October 9, 2010

JAPAN: By 2055, it is predicted that half the population will be over 65!

TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / Features / Life in Japan / October 9, 2010

One possible sign of aging


Japan, long a society obsessed with age, is now obsessing about — old age! By 2055, it is predicted that half the population will be over 65! OMG, what can you do?!

While 65 is the official age that you can receive a pension check, don't kid yourself — the aging process starts much earlier. So you need to be ready. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. Don't fall a victim to aging.

My neighbor Kazu-chan, who is 60, reminds me all the time that I am already getting old. While I refuse to believe that 47 is old, I do admit I have recognized some possible signs of aging.

For example, one sign of aging is when you no longer think it is gross when you see an old person picking their nose in public. To the contrary, you have sympathy. This is because now you know why they are picking their nose — they are growing stalactites in there. For the first time in your life, you are also faced with the embarrassing topic of nasal hygiene. Before, you only had boogers, those nice little balls of sticky stuff that cleanly and neatly adhered themselves to the bottom of chairs or the sides of car seats. But now disposal is a much trickier, stickier issue.

But this is nothing to be embarrassed about. Snot is a nationwide problem. Why do you think one of the most popular advertising mediums in Japan is the free, hand-out packets of tissues? Usually attractive young people are handing these out at train stations and stairwells where lots of old people pass. They hand them to you while smiling and bowing in full acknowledgment that you have a snot problem, and they are there to help you. It's a known fact that older people use more tissues than younger people. It is also a known fact that older people have more money. The tissue companies are targeting you in what is called nasal advertising.

With more and more people reaching old age every year, I'd say there is a good future for nasal hygienists. Why not? In Japan they have "ear rakes" to clean out the wax in your ears. Even in the U.S. we have Q-Tips and "cotton buds" for cleaning out the ears. But the nose has nothing but your fingernails to clean it out. Nasal hygienists could scrape out the nose and keep it free of debris such as pollution, dust and other nasties that form stalactites inside your nose. Your nose is a filter and it works like any other kind of filter, taking in dirty air all day and converting it to nasal sledge - a very sticky substance that needs to be disposed of safely, just as nuclear waste does.

I know a guy who says the trick to a clean nasal passage is to take a hot shower in the morning and let the steam waft up into your nose. Next, blow your nose into your hands. Lastly, take your two pinkie fingers and insert one into each nostril. It helps to have long pinkie fingernails, but next, gently scoop out any stuff hiding in the fleshy corners of the nose, then (and this is important), turn the pinkie fingers outwards and flick! This should catapult any remaining mucus onto the tiles of your shower wall. Be sure to clean the shower wall afterward.

But I can't wash snot down the drain. In my house, our "gray water" flushes out into the sea and I just can't bear the thought of my snot adhering itself to some fish. He'd be permanently stuck to the next thing he swam up next to, such as another fish. I'd feel guilty if I started seeing Siamese fish.

It is this disposal of nasal waste that got me thinking — with the apparent bonding power of snot, you'd think we could use it for something useful. I mean face it, we have so much of this stuff, you could reclaim land with it. People are digging with their fingernails, mining tons of it from their nasal passages every day. What if we used it to make that soft spongy asphalt they usually make from old recycled tires? The problem with using old tires is storing them until they can be recycled. Old tires fill with rain water and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Not snot. Even mosquitoes won't touch abandoned snot.

If we could find a good use for snot, we could store it in snototoriums. Just like blood donations, you'd line up to give your monthly mucus donation to help build safe, spongy asphalt playgrounds for children. Who wouldn't feel good about that?

In the meantime, I keep all mine in a jar. This is not because I really feel it will be valuable for something some day but because I don't know exactly how to dispose of it: With the burnables? Non-burnables? We need a new garbage category: non-distinguishables.

One last thing. Remember that insects like moist, dark places, so you have to be careful they don't enter and cuddle up in the fleshy parts of your nose while you're sleeping. There's a reason some men in Japan keep an extra long fingernail on their pinkie.

(C) The Japan Times Ltd