This is a little story about how to take advantage of being old on a rock. Being old is not known for being a ton of fun, in general, so we’ve got to get our kicks somehow, right? As a society, we’ve created all sorts of euphemisms to help us deal with our aging: things like “active senior” to “young old” all the way to the less appealing “frail elderly.” We have aches and pains, creaky joints, and can’t get down or up off the floor – you get the picture. Though none of these tend to be my favorite descriptors, if I had to pick a place for myself on the above scale, I can be considered an “active senior.” I get discount cards, I get the good seats on the bus, and people hold doors open for me. I appreciate it, mostly. There are even times when I have to make the most of it and have learned to use it in some unusual ways. Luckily, on my rock, the elderly are treated with a great deal of respect by most islanders, including businesses and professional people.
I care to venture that all of us rock dwellers have had to deal with the maddening, doesn’t-make-any-sense style of island bureaucracy that requires frequent fighting for what you need at some point in our time on a rock. I’ve quickly learned that the worst thing one can do in these situations is to challenge the competence of the bureaucrats at whatever level they reign. While aggression and confrontation have never been my style, patience has not been one of my strong suits either, so at times, rock life has really challenged my composure. I understand there are cultural differences I must learn to flow with (time has a different meaning on my rock, for example), so the question becomes: what is the most effective way to deal with these types of particularly frustrating situations that offers the least resistance for all involved?
Creative thinking is the answer, my friends.
I recently did a wire transfer from my account in Chicago to my account on my rock. Since I’ve done this several times before, I didn’t think there would be any problems. WRONG! What followed was a true comedy of errors game. First, the bank needed my ID, which they already have in several different formats in the foot-thick folder they have on me. They then asked that the bank in Chicago send them a note to state that they know me and I am a legitimate customer – a letter which, of course, they also already have in their possession. In spite of the extensive documentation provided to the source of the funds, verification was required again. Lastly, when they couldn’t think of anything else and yet were still looking for a way to turn me down for some reason, I was told that all of the documentation had to be originals – not scans or copies – and had to be mailed to the bank. Talk about nuts. I’m sure you’ve all been there in some similar fashion.
After my 3rd trip to the bank and an added delay of 10 days, I had had enough. My composure was quickly wearing thin and I decided unusual methods were called for to deal with what seemed to be a dead end. Time for the “Poor Little Old Lady” routine.
Fortunately, I am now old enough to be able to carry this off and am careful not to overdo it for fear that it may one day lose its power. I only break it out when absolutely necessary and this was decidedly one of those times.
As I sat yet again, facing an unflappable banker who was repeating the elongated “no” that I had now heard more than three times, I called out the “Poor Little Old Lady” in all her glory. Swallowing my anger, I put my head in my hands, and started wailing:
“Oh my God, what am I going to do? I can’t pay my contractor and he’s threatening to stop work on my house! I don’t know where to turn! I can’t keep coming back here! There’s got to be someone who can help me…” *insert pitiful tears here*
At this point, all of the people around us were now looking our way, trying to figure out what was going on, and no doubt wondering how a bank could be so cruel to a poor little old lady. The banker was so embarrassed, she didn’t know where to look.
Finally, she started patting my arm and assured me, ”There, there… don’t take on so, let me see what I can do to help you.” She got up and disappeared behind a door, leaving me to my sniffles. No less than six minutes later, she reappeared with a document, asked me to sign it, and then personally did all the paperwork right then and there to deposit the money into my account. I composed myself once again, thanked her effusively, and was on my way with my banking finally completed.
Cheap trick? Maybe. But if there’s one thing living on a rock has taught me, it’s that one must get creative at times to solve problems in ways they never have before when facing bureaucracy run amok. It’s all a part of rock living.
Besides. I’m an old lady. Let me have my fun, will ya?