A free ride on SEPTA

Finding a silver lining in turning 65

It’s bad enough getting old; it’s worse being incessantly reminded about it.

It started more than a decade or so ago when I started receiving mailings from AARP, the association geared to folks 50 years or older, urging me to join. But I just tossed them in the nearest wastebasket.

AARP had such an old feel to it, and I certainly didn’t feel old, nor did I want to pull out my wallet with a membership card staring me in the face reminding me that I was no longer a spring chicken. A mirror was reminder enough.

So I ignored AARP’s invitations as if that would keep me young.

But it didn’t stop the reminders that I was aging. When I would go to the movie theater, for example, I would occasionally be asked if I were a senior citizen. On one hand I was happy. If I said yes I could get a generous discount on my ticket. On the other hand, I was pissed off that the twerp in the ticket booth thought I was 65. I wasn’t—not yet.

The reminders continued this year when I received my Medicare card a few months before I was to turn 65. And that card was followed by an onslaught of direct mail from insurance companies offering me Part D insurance.

Again, I refused to open them. It was as if my refusal to open the mailings would fend off old age.

But then it dawned on me that when I turned 65 I could receive a senior citizen card from SEPTA and ride city transit to my heart’s delight for nothing and shill out just a dollar to ride the regional rail system.

Finally, I saw a benefit to turning an age I shuddered to mention.

So I rushed to SEPTA headquarters at 1234 Market Street to get my card.  My birthday was on a Saturday—April 10th to be exact. Always impatient, I went to the SEPTA office on a Tuesday, four days before I officially turned the magic age.

Knowing something about bureaucracies, I had a sneaking suspicion I would be told I didn’t qualify yet. But I charged ahead nonetheless.

“I would like to get my senior citizen card,” I told the clerk at the counter.

“Do you have proof of age?” I was asked.

I showed her my driver’s license.

“You’re not 65 yet. You will have to return.”

Needless to say I wasn’t surprised but nor was I deterred.

“Are you open on Saturday, which is my birthday?” I asked, knowing full well that the office would be closed.

“No,” she said. “Why don’t you come back on Friday?”

“But I still won’t be 65 on Friday,” I countered, trying not to sound too much like a smartass.

“And if I have to return on Monday, then I will have missed two days of riding SEPTA for free,” I persisted.

I detected a glimpse of understanding in her otherwise bureaucratic face; it was like seeing a ray of sunlight pierce dark storm clouds. It was enough to make me go for broke.

“Why don’t you just give me the card now—sort of like an early birthday present?” I said with a warm smile.

She hesitated and then a slight smile emerged from her face too. And much to my amazement, she opened up her drawer, took out a blank pass, filled it out and stamped it with an official SEPTA seal. “Happy birthday,” she said with a broader smile.

Like a schoolboy rather than a nearly 65-year-old man, I hurriedly headed for the Market-Frankford El, flashed my new badge of honor at the ticket agent sitting glumly in his booth and boarded the subway.

It wasn’t until three stops had gone by that I realized that I had been so excited, I jumped on the subway headed east when I wanted to go west.

Calmly, I exited at the next stop, crossed over to the other side and jumped on the next westward bound subway. I could care less. After all, I didn’t have to pay a cent for my mistake.

I finally found something good about turning 65.