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Turning 40 on a work day isn't so bad when you get a surprise lunch - sombrero and all

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason ChaneyI would venture to guess that most people don't spend their work lunch hour wearing a sombrero while getting serenaded by wait staff and colleagues.

But there I was couple Tuesdays back, huge hat on my head, sopapilla in hand, feeling like a pretty big deal as my co-workers snapped pictures and took video that would later make the rounds on Facebook for all to see.

Call it a pleasant surprise — a celebration on the day of my 40th birthday that I didn't expect.

You see, I was beginning to wonder as the big day approached last week if I might manage to skip turning 40. I found myself asking, if I have a birthday and nobody is around to celebrate it with me, did it really happen? Would I still be 39?

My birthday hit on a Tuesday this year, so I knew not to expect a whole lot of fanfare. I figured it was too far removed from either end of the weekend, and most people are buried in work or errands to participate in anything beyond a modest cake-and-ice-cream affair.

But what I hadn't prepared for was the exodus of close family and friends leading into that week. It's like this — my parents live in town as does my cousin and his wife who are essentially best friends with me and my spouse. I also have two young children who are ordinarily home and keeping me hopping.

As it turns out, my kids were spending a couple weeks with my wife's parents. My parents, meanwhile, went on vacation to South Dakota. And our cousins/friends were also headed to South Dakota (other side of the state) to drop their oldest off for his first year of college. That left me and the missus — or so I thought. Leading up to that week, my lovely bride informs me that she too will be out of town, for a job training.

The news from my spouse left me at a bit of a loss for words — all I could do was laugh at the absurdity of it all. Here I was at a major birthday milestone, the big 4 — 0, the gateway to gray hair, male pattern baldness, and the ever-looming desire to purchase a Porsche — or in my case, a moped because, ya know, income limitations — and rather than celebrate in a crowd of loved ones, soaking up the good-natured ribbing that such an occasion demands, I would spend it with our 9-year-old mop of a terrier and the family cat. They haven't mastered the English language yet, so conversations are a bit lacking.

Having resigned to my fate, I went into work that Tuesday expecting the usual birthday festivities the office graciously provides — a treat of my choice as well as some cake, pie or whatever for the rest of the staff to enjoy.

But during the early minutes of the work day, I was asked to lunch by a few co-workers who wanted to know where I wanted to go. Several options were suggested, but Mexican food continued to receive mention — so that was the option I chose. It wasn't until an hour or two afterward that I realized this likely meant the sombrero treatment — but I still wonder if that wasn't their plan all along.

The lunch honestly made my day, and I thank Teresa Tooley, Holly Scholz and Lon Austin for joining me and making my otherwise quiet birthday feel like an event. And an encore of pie and singing back at the office made it all the sweeter.

So I have now joined the club, it seems. As a colleague eloquently puts it, it's all downhill from here. My kids will marvel at how old Dad is getting. My parents face the sobering reality that they now have a child, gasp, in his 40s!

But hey, it's all relative. Consider that my wife and my cousins conspired last year — when I was only turning 39 — to purchase the following "gifts" for my big day: bedding underpads, a beard coloring kit, a denture bath and denture cleaner.

Yet at the office, only two of the 15 people I work with are younger than I am. So I have learned over the years that no matter how much older I am getting, the majority of the staff sees me as a bit of a youngster — a feller who has no idea what being old really means. Instead of a lunch date, I half-expected to get a pat on the head, and a gift bag filled with some crayons and a box of Legos.

So maybe it's true that age is just a number and you are only as old as you feel. After all, 40 doesn't seem all that old now that I'm here ... or perhaps it's time to head for the nearest Porsche or moped dealer and dust off the denture bath. Hard to say, but if this birthday and my unexpected work lunch have taught me anything, life is full of surprises.

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