I got my first pension check this week. Yes. Pension. As in, "Old-Age." As in, one minute you're bopping along like a spry 50 year-old and the next you're buying Metamucil in the bonus size.
At first, I wasn't the least bit perturbed by the idea of collecting a pension. It's a small sum from the college where I taught in British Columbia and I was eligible to apply for it three years ago at age 60. Looking at our financial Big Picture, it really wasn't going to amount to a hill of beans if I cashed it in now or let it sit, so we decided, "Why not collect it?" Woo hoo! Monthly mad-money!Enough to keep me in orthotic insoles!
I was mildly excited.
Until I went to the bank.
I walked into our local branch and approached the teller's window with the joie de vivre of a teenager with her first paycheck from a summer job at the Dairy Queen.
"I'd like to open an account, please!" I said, feeling quite chirpy about it all, thrusting my ID under the wicket. What fun! A bank account of my very own! I hadn't had one of those since the Mister and I got married 40 years ago and walked down the aisle to the "Now You Have a Joint Account" recessional music.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Ma-am," said the young man, "I'll have to get a manager to help you."
"He Ma'am-ed me," I muttered to myself. "Well, Lesley, relax. He was just being polite."
"Please, have a seat over there while you wait," he added.
"Oh, sure, the old lady needs to sit down," I thought. "What? Are you nervous my hip replacement will give out right here in the lobby?" I stood. Defiantly. Conspicuously. My previous euphoria was starting to deflate like a wrinkly, ripening grape.
The assistant branch manager came over with her hand extended. The young man had passed my bank card and driver's license to her. Her name badge said, "Kristen."
"HELLO!" Kristen shouted at me. There it was. That assumption that I don't hear very well. (I don't, but that's beside the point.) That condescending tone. That ever-so-subtle bending toward me to exert her youthful stature. She looked at my driver's license. "MISS LESLEY! HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY?"
"MISS Lesley?!?!?" I hate that! I think it must be a Southern thing where younger women address their elders as, "Miss" with the first name tacked on. It always makes me feel like I should be wearing a cardigan with a lace collar and a chain attached to my spectacles.
I cringed. I said hello. Politely, but cooly. "I'd like to open an account, please." I pulled up out of my core to my full, yet gradually shrinking, 5'-1" frame. I put on my "Don't mess with me, Missy. I pushed around construction crews back in my day," business voice.
"Alrighty. What kind of account would you like?"
This was going down hill fast. "Just a basic checking account. You see, I have a small amount of money coming in from a pension…" Oooo! Why did I explain? Why did I utter the "P-word?"
"Okey-dokey!" she twittered, "We can do that for YEEEW!" Kristen's voice had gone all singsongy. "Just give me a minute to pull something up on my COM-PUUU-TER."
"Yes, Sweet Cheeks! I have heard of a computer before. She thinks I'm too old to have computer skills! Heck, she thinks I've never even seen a computer!"
I fidgeted in the chair that was too big for me. There was no way I was going to sit back in that too-deep seat and let my feet dangle above the floor. I put my elbow on her desk and took it off again. I straightened my back and sat with my hands folded in my lap trying to look dignified, as though cinched into a corset, draped in a flimsy frock, trying to keep my elbows off the table, and flirting with the Prince of Wales in a dinner scene on Downton Abbey,
"Why didn't I wear a nice suit for this silly interview?" I wondered to myself, "Why didn't I at least wear makeup?"
I looked at my watch. "I'm sorry to rush you, but can we hurry this along? I have a 4:00 I need to get to." I didn't, but I needed to get the upper hand.
"Oh, certainly. We're nearly done!"
"Ha! I've restored my seniority! Take THAT, you young, Whippersnapper, you!"
"There we are, Miss Lesley!" she concluded the transaction, as merrily as she began, "Congratulations on your new account!"
"Yeah, thanks." I replied and hastened my exit. "Congratulations. Hmph. I've had bank accounts since before you were born, MISS KRIS-ten!"
I was getting into my Subaru, when it hit me. "Good grief. I've become an old-age pensioner cliche!" It happens before you know it. You wake up one day and realize that you've adopted a slightly-wide matronly figure, you've been having hot flashes now for the last 15 years, you're wearing sensible shoes with arch support inserts, you adjusted to your trifocals long ago, you drive a no-nonsense Outback, you carry Tums in the glove box, you've wondered if Poise might be a good idea, you ask your husband to repeat everything he says, you use Closed Captioning for your PBS programs, your go-to slacks have an elastic waist, young things call you by your first name, but with "Miss" added on in front of it, and you use words like Whippersnapper.
You might be thinking, "Shoot me NOW!"
But wait! Think of all the fun you can have with YOUR first pension check. Like, I don't know, going to the early bird special at Bob Evans.