13 Sep 2017
Age has its privileges. If the coffee is not hot or strong enough I send it back. I hang up on unsolicited phone marketers without apology. I’ve earned the right to that efficient honesty.
But I’ve lost a few privileges I considered permanent rights. My favorite birthday card when I turned 60 held this sentiment: “The best part of getting older is you get to keep all the ages you’ve ever been.” Great, I thought a win-win for sure. But not necessarily true when applied to employment opportunities.
Initially convinced that more than four decades of experience, skills, wisdom and loyalty – built on a solid educational foundation – would guarantee a plethora of part-time post-retirement options, three phone calls dispelled that myth.
“Hello, I’m responding to your inquiry about a job posted on (Blank) job search engine.” “Your resume is impressive,” he said. The questions continued to yield easy, positive answers. Then, a final question, slipped into the soup as casually as a pinch of salt; “What year did you graduate high school?” My answer was reflexive, honest and a death blow. Silence. Dead silence at the other end. I imagined a cell phone issue.
The next time it happened I was as prepared as an underage college kid buying beer. I knew the date that made me four years younger. Dead silence again. Not the pleasurable conch shell to your ear silence, but an unwelcome emerging truth. The last time, I regained my footing. When asked, I coyly reminded him that both undergraduate and graduate dates were included. In the ensuing silence, I added, “I’m sixty three… is that a problem?” Check-Checkmate!
Wounded but curious, I discovered that an AARP poll revealed 60% of respondents believed that people between the ages of 48 and 75 were victims of age discrimination in employment. This, in spite of the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 that protects ages 40 to 65 against unfair practices, This was amended in 1978 to increase the age to 70. Another valiant federal attempt at fairness, as intrinsically flawed as other civil rights initiatives.
What would Helen Mirin or Judy Dench do, I thought? Certainly not take no for an answer. And then there was my favorite movie scene ever starring Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). Two sexy young things in a red convertible laugh as they boldly steal a parking space from Evelyn (Kathy Bates):
“Hey, I was waiting for that space,” she shouts. “ Are you crazy?”
“Face it lady, we are younger and faster,” they respond.
She guns her motor and promptly crashes into the front end of the red convertible.
“Face it,” she says. “I’m older and have more insurance.”
Yes Kathy, Yes Helen and Judy and Jane!
I’m not done yet, just fighting harder. I will just drive around the lot a bit until the perfect space comes up. I know it’s there.