Achieving Dirty Old Man Status


Paul Buri, RSA

Paul Burri, RSA

I am a firm believer in setting goals. Over the years I have achieved many of the goals that I set for myself. On the other hand, I have also missed a lot of them. I am sure that I’ve said this before but I believe that if you are achieving 100% of your goals, you are not to be complimented; you’re just not setting them high enough.

Now having said all that, I keep wondering how old I have to be to achieve my goal of becoming a dirty old man. I am about to celebrate my 87th birthday (well I won’t exactly celebrate it) and one of the thoughts I had was that I have still not yet reached the age when I can say totally outrageous things and have other people around me simply tolerate them with a knowing look and a somewhat understanding shake of their head. Ever since I was a little boy, I have always known people – both men and women, but mostly men – who were outrageously outspoken and had no trouble getting away with it. But it seems to me that that goal keeps eluding me like when I’m dreaming and running toward something but never quite reaching it.

I guess that at this point in my life, my idol was Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Andy seemed to get away with whatever was on his mind, never worried about being fired and I’m sure – was being paid a very handsome salary. I surely wouldn’t refuse the handsome salary but even without that, I still want to be able to say exactly what is on my mind whenever and wherever it occurs to me. And I’d have no problem putting up with a few scolding headshakes.

I think the thing that keeps me from my goal is remembering my Grandma who always told me as a little child, “If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything.” Or something like that. I guess that precludes me from talking about certain presidential wannabe’s, the president of Iran, the government of Myanmar, the lady ahead of me in the grocery store check out line who is paying with loose change and a fist-full of discount coupons, the people who deny that we have a global warming problem, and that nice Nigerian gentlemen who keeps sending me all those emails. That sure restricts my conversational options.

But I haven’t totally given up on my dirty old man goal. But here’s a recent example of my progress.

I was asked to substitute teach a class at the local Adult Education Center for a friend of mine. I agreed and the paperwork process began. It was soon discovered that my tuberculosis certification had expired and that I needed to be re-certified. That took two days and two trips to the Health Office at Santa Barbara City College. I passed the test and I was handed a small green postcard that I was instructed to mail to the education office. Then the woman hesitated and suggested that instead of mailing it as the postcard, I might want to put it in an envelope and mail it enclosed inside. When I asked why, she said that the postcard contained personal health information that I might not want anyone to know about. I replied, “I really don’t care who knows that I’m TB negative. It’s my child abuse record that I want to keep confidential.”

Her eyes opened wide and she shot a meaningful look at one of her associates. Then she gave me one of those headshakes.


P.S. No, I do not have a child abuse record. I just said that in a poor attempt at humor.

P.P.S. I do not disagree with the regulation that teachers be tested for TB to prevent them from transmitting it to their students. But shouldn’t there also be a regulation requiring students to be tested to prevent them from transmitting it to the teacher?

© 2016 by Paul Burri


Paul Burri is a self-described retired smart ass who feels he has earned the right to say anything he damn well pleases. He is an inventor, entrepreneur, business consultant, educator, newspaper columnist and has been a SCORE ( counselor for over nine and a half years. Over his 65-year business career he has owned 9 businesses and has worked as general manager for many small companies and on a managerial level for such major companies as Northrop-Grumman and The Disney Corporation. He has over 175 inventions to his credit, counseled over 190 SCORE clients, served as a docent at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, sits on the board of directors of several local small businesses, and is currently writing a book about small business. He lives with his wife in Santa Barbara CA and can be contacted at and has nothing better to do than to tell his “war stories” to whoever will listen – many times repeatedly.


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