Monday, 20 February 2012

A Concession Confession

I have been a concession for some years now..  Recently my wife joined me in that predicament. She too is now a concession. A month or so ago I asked her, "What is there to like about being a concession?"  She replied, "What is there not to like?"

I suppose she meant the free bus travel and cheaper rail fares, reduced entry fees to cinemas, theatres, exhibitions and museums. The trouble is that I am fast - as if any part of me goes fast these days - becoming a museum piece. I'm slow of mind, hard of hearing and my eye sight is deteriorating. I struggle to get on buses and trains.

Furthermore, and people who know me will find this difficult to believe, I have become even more cantankerous.

Recently the customs officers at an airport temporarily barred my embarkation on a 'plane because I refused to take my belt off before going through the security screening check. A young female security officer had asked me to take it off. I refused on the basis that I was fearful that my trousers would fall down and I would lose what little, if any, dignity I might yet retain.  The officer was adamant. "You must remove, your belt sir."  I refused again. I like to think now that my refusal was a matter of principle rather than the chauvinist feelings of a man whose diminishing potency was being publicly exposed by the directive of a young woman.  Appreciating my fixed attitudinal locus, she called her boss - a shaven haired bloke of about 50 who towered over me - and in a demonstration of both his solidarity with his colleague and his masculine power he said, "If you don't do as the lady says I will not allow you on the plane."  At this point my wife who had already passed to the "other side" of the security check called to the customs security boss that I had not been well recently and this had made me very stressed and would he please let me through. Her story was untrue but the situation was desperate and my wife advised me to take my belt off. I did. I walked through the security beam holding up my trousers. As I walked towards the duty free area, the young woman who had first demanded my unbelting said, "Enjoy your flight, sir."  I wasn't certain she was being entirely sincere.

My confession here of disgraceful behaviour at the airport says everything about what being a concession really means. It is a developmental process of ageing by which  gradually one has to accept that one's role is now to make a concession to other younger beings. It is to concede that they hold the power now and that I do not.

Recently I was travelling on the London Underground Circle Line from Paddington to Euston Square.  I was a standing passenger and just after the train left Great Portland Street a young woman got up and asked, "Would you like a seat ?" Astonished that this request had been made to me  - surely I hadn't reached this stage of decrepitude yet  -  I was about to say, "No thanks, I'm getting off at the next stop," but I had to concede she meant well and actually I was feeling quite exhausted. "That's very kind of you," I said and I sat down.

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