“Can you help me, dear? I’m 90 years old and can’t find the information you want.” Yes, I confess – I have enjoyed impersonating my 90-year-old mom to deal with the bureaucracy and lack of civility and kindness that continue to plague her life, and mine. I have discovered there is a flip side to ageism. Sometimes it's fun to be 90!
If I call Comcast as my 68-year-old self (even though I am sure that is ancient to the kid from India named “Sean” who is helping me), I have to provide all sorts of information that forces me to crawl under the desk where my modem and other equipment reside or dismantle my cable box. As my mom, however, I just tell “Sean” I am 90 and unable to get him that number and, amazingly, he finds it with two clicks!
This has been a fun preview of coming attractions. When I call Medicare as Mom and tell them I am 90, they politely explain how to appeal their non-payment of an ambulance bill. When I call as myself, they tell me to go online and figure it out myself.
Another benefit of being 90 – you can say whatever you want as bluntly as you want with no blow back whatsoever. My mom can tell me to stand up straight, lose some weight, or stop trying to do too many things at once. Imagine if I said that to any of my kids!
Mom gets her manicures for $10 because that’s what she paid twenty years ago and she tells the owner she will not pay a penny more. And they agree! She somehow calls a department store and gets a clerk to help her, and she can get through to her doctor’s receptionist without pushing ten buttons, and gets an appointment by telling the woman she really wants to come in this Wednesday. When I call on her behalf, all I get is voicemail and my message is rarely returned.
So what is the point here? Clearly, if you are lucky enough to live long enough, people will treat you with kindness and respect? If you have lived long enough to expect to be treated well, you will be? I guess it leaves me wondering why we all have to wait so long to experience basic human decency and civility.