Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fifty shades

MY salt-and-pepper hair has given me perks, such as solicitous offers of precious MRT seats during rush hour and advice on hair coloring from a stranger during a jeepney ride. Recently, I added another one on my list.

One hectic Friday in a mall, I got a priority number for a bank transaction before popping in the next-door pharmacy to purchase my 75-year-old mother’s medicine.

There were about 40 other persons before it would be my turn in the bank. I was two numbers away from being served in the pharmacy.

Yet, according to the principles that skewer situations when one is in a hurry, the “express” senior citizen’s lane took an eternity to add more grey strands in my head. When I popped back to the bank, my turn had come and gone.

Cutting or jumping the line or queue is among the worst of uncivilized behavior. A band of yuppies was unable to budge their way into our queue for boarding a plane until someone in their party—with the shortest skirt drawn across a human posterior—smiled her way in front of a man in front. No way to win against two apes.

But in a mall on a Friday, with bags in tow and hours logged behind queues, I was beyond the threshold of forbearance. I explained my situation to the bank security.

The officer said he would ordinarily advise a person with a lapsed number to get in line again. Lowering his voice, he tipped me to tell the teller that I had gone to the toilet.

I told him the numbers being served were already a dozen or so past my number. Who would believe the toilet alibi?

The officer glanced at my head and said, still sotto voce: prepare your senior citizen’s identification card, in case.

I didn’t resort to ID abuse but still got helped by another officer, 10 minutes before bank closing. The windfall on a busy Friday night in a mall was, I suspect, boosted by a head full of greying tresses.

Yet, being elderly is far from being a walk in the park these days. You see stoicism but also exasperation as they wait interminably in pharmacies for their prescriptions to be filled.

Stools ease the waiting except that, for persons with mobility problems, sitting without a backrest and getting up without aid are Herculean tasks that may just end in a slipping accident and a trip on the last boat down the River Styx.

Senior citizen lanes are supposed to prioritize the elderly. The backlog can be due to many factors: prescriptions that are often more than a page; doctors’ penmanship to decipher; forms to fill; and the elderly’s need for slow and clear explanations.

So why is there usually only a single clerk manning this lane? Once, attempting to switch from a slow-moving senior citizens’ counter to the fast-moving and multiple regular counters, I was told I could not bridge the divide. Stick with slow. Slow is good. The elderly cannot possibly be in a hurry to go anywhere except to the terminal with no return ticket.

Thus, the donation of rocking chairs by the Silya Foundation and the Ayala Center Cebu to public places is timely.

It reminds us that we take for granted those we should spend more time and effort “to thank… the elderly because they shaped us to who we are… (and) to inspire the youth to care for the elderly,” said Tito Lorete Alcala, founder of Silya Foundation, during the Sept. 19 turnover of the rocking chairs in Cebu, reported Janelle Paula Blaire Arcayos, University of San Jose-Recoletos Mass Com intern in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 20 issue.

Alcala said the donation won’t only consist of rocking chairs. Benches and other seats are welcome. What about treadmills and ballrooms?

Let’s not stereotype the elderly. To quote E. L. James, whom my mother still yearns to read, there are fifty shades of grey. At least.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s September 21, 2014 issue of “Matamata,” the Sunday editorial-page column

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