You know what happens every time a bell rings, right?

It means another newspaper columnist has received a membership letter from AARP.

I got mine last week, despite the fact that I'm 42 and haven't yet figured out how to get the most out of life under 43, let alone "the most out of life over 50."

That's the promise AARP Executive Director William D. Novelli made me in his letter: join AARP and I would receive the resources and information I need to get the most out of life over 50.

I suppose I could join AARP now and spend the next seven years in preparation. Then in 2012, the instant I turned 50, I could start getting the most out of my life.

According to the AARP benefits outlined in the letter, getting the most out of my life involves reading AARP The Magazine, saving on vacation packages and auto rentals, and finding pharmacy services with convenient delivery to my mailbox. Oh, how I have frittered away my youth!

Of course, we're all living longer these days. If 40 is the new 30 -- and everyone says it is -- then it stands to reason that 50 is the new 40. And if I remember my high school algebra, that must mean that 40 is also the new 50. (50 = 40 = 50.)

I've always been precocious, ever since I was a little baby. I've always seemed old for my age, if you know what I mean. But as anyone who has walked through the valley of the shadow of 30 knows, at some point you stop wanting to be thought of as old for your age and start wanting to be thought of as young for your age. That happened to me many birthdays ago. It explains the weak fight I put up when an attractive woman cutting my hair suggested that what I really needed was "product."

I've never quite gotten the hang of product, and at 42 I may never get the hang of it. AARP seems to offer no help in this regard, though it does offer a safe-driving course. (A safe-driving course! Just like for a pimply-faced teenager! Eighty is the new 16!)

I guess what I'm wondering is, does AARP know something that I don't? We all of us have a chronological age and a mental age. Perhaps I'm a 50-year-old trapped inside a 42-year-old's body. I mean, there must be a reason they sent me that letter.

Unless, of course, they sent it knowing that every time a columnist receives a membership letter from AARP he writes about it. We can't resist. It's pretty much a guarantee for free advertising. But what if AARP decided the free advertising it was getting from its bona fide 50-year-olds wasn't enough? What if it was greedy, and wanted more free ink?

Who's to say it wouldn't stoop to sending 42-year-old columnists the letter?

Barbara Foelber would.

"I can say with pretty much assurance that we do not do that," said Barbara, an AARP spokeswoman.

Instead, AARP generates its "solicitation list" by purchasing hundreds of lists of names from various places: printed records, newspaper and magazine subscription lists, etc. Barbara said that when AARP purchases a list, it does what's called an "age select," asking only for people who are 491/2 and above.

"Some of the folks that we buy our lists from, they do their age select process through overlaying of different data assumptions," said Barbara. "So there's an implied age."

Data assumptions. Implied age. Sounds technical, but I think that must mean that if you subscribe to Smithsonian magazine, say, or ordered a pair of shearling slippers from L.L. Bean, the assumption is you must be over 50.

"We'd be happy to get you removed," said Barbara. Yes, please.

And now I'm going to start getting the most out of my life. Well, tomorrow, anyway.

Sign of the Times

My request yesterday for interesting store juxtapositions brought this memory from Pam Sargent of Glen Allen, Va. Pam was driving in Rehoboth Beach, Del., one night when she saw a beauty salon next door to a bait shop.

Said Pam: "It had one of those signs on wheels out front with this memorable slogan: 'Worms and Perms.' | "

Now we know where Medusa would get her hair done.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

These area schools sent us their reunion information since the last time we printed reunions:

Langley High Class of 1985 -- Oct. 8. www.greatreunions.com.

Washington-Lee High Class of 1965 -- Oct. 8. Contact Paul Rucker at 703-876-4694 or WL1965net@yahoo.com.

Woodrow Wilson High Class of 1975 -- Oct. 8. Contact Bobby Kinzer at 301-237-1632 or rpkinzer@att.net.

Yorktown High Classes of 1962, 1963 and 1964 -- Oct. 8. E-mail dbconaty@comcast.net.

James W. Robinson Class of 1995 -- Oct. 15. www.capitalreunions.com.

J.E.B. Stuart High Class of 1985 -- Oct. 15. www.greatreunions.com.

The Bullis School Classes of 1955, 1980, 1985, 1995 and 2000 -- Oct. 22. Contact the alumni office at 301-983-5735 or go to www.bullis.org.

Oakton High Class of 1995 -- Oct. 22. www.greatreunions.com.

Regina High, all classes -- Oct. 22. Visit www.reginareunion.com or call 301-869-2498.

Thomas Jefferson High Class of 1985 -- Oct. 22. www.greatreunions.com.

Woodbridge High Class of 1995 -- Oct. 22. www.greatreunions.com.

Annandale High Class of 1995 -- Nov. 5. www.greatreunions.com.

McKinley High Class of 1965 -- Nov. 18-20. Contact Sharon Thompson at 301-249-2955.

T.C. Williams High Classes of 1967-71 -- Feb. 24-26, 2006. Contact Jan Epstein at 703-944-8950.

Coolidge High Class of 1956 -- August 2006. Contact Harriet Tudor Platt at 301-468-6792 or irplatt@aol.com.

Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High Class of 1986 -- 2006. Contact Cathy Ganley at 703-255-6245 or cathy@ganley.org.

T.A. Edison High Classes of 1964-67 -- July 15 and 16, 2006. Register online at http://edisonhs.org or send an email to edisonhs@edisonhs.org.

My e-mail: kellyj@washpost.com