Seeing ourselves as others see us.
As we age we have to deal with changes which are not just financial. I first realized this whilst I was still working full time. After a project meeting I caught a tram along St Kilda Road to travel back to the city. The tram was full as usual. As I took hold of the bar above my head a young Asian girl stood up and offered me her seat.
No one had ever done that before. I was confused. I was and still am very fit and standing for the length of St Kilda Road was not an issue for me. My first instinct was to refuse her offer but I remembered the respect with which Asian people regard their elders and I politely thanked her and took the seat. It did feel embarrassing.
That was a turning point; I had a new status in life. To those who didn’t know me I was becoming an old person who needed help and even worse, perhaps pity.
Since that time I have frequently been treated as old and incapable. Now I enjoy using it to my advantage.
Quite recently my status was reinforced by a problem with my mobile phone. I needed to change my credit card details for payment of the account so I hopped on to their website. No matter how hard I tried I could not effect the change. After half an hours effort I decided to telephone for help. I could only get automatic answers none of which solved my problem so I went along to the local outlet of my service provider.
I explained my problem to a young assistant (they are all young now). From his expression I could see his thoughts. “Poor old guy can’t cope with today’s technology, I’ll soon fix him up”. It may be I’m getting paranoid but that’s how I felt. He rattled the keys on his computer with great confidence and then did it again and then again. He called his supervisor, equally young, who also confidently addressed the computer. Half an hour later I was vindicated, neither of them could change my credit card details. A temporary fix was put in place to keep me in contact with the world and a few days later I was notified that my problem was fixed. The poor old guy couldn’t cope. Yeah right. It was the system that couldn’t cope.
That’s the way the world sees older people. It doesn’t matter how successful you have been in your career, how many degrees, masters or doctorates you have or whether you can run a marathon. Once you pass a certain age you become a poor old guy, or old lady, who needs help and you have to get used to it. You can’t change it so use it to your advantage.
It can be fun to play the game. In bargaining it’s a great advantage as you keep your opposition explaining the reason for their price until they feel they have to bring the price down. It’s called playing dumb. Just like our visit to the bank to meet our very sympathetic young account manager which saved us $200 per month in fees and interest. You may have to feel like you have gone back to school but you can leave knowing who has won the match.
One of my older sailing friends sums up the situation beautifully when he says, “the more stupid people think I am the easier it is to beat them”. He has a very good point and he often wins.
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