A Message from the Middle Ages

Here’s what I’m really enjoying about being middle aged: glasses.  Wherever I go, I now need to take multiple pairs of glasses and then swap between them as required by the circumstances.  There are sunglasses for the glare which, in turn, need to be replaced by my reading glasses in the event that I need to look at anything printed in something smaller than thirty-six font.  And then there are glasses for the ordinary business of seeing where you’re going.  It’s gotten to the point where I now need to factor in time to change in and out of various pairs of glasses.

There have been some moments of reckoning.  There was the time a work colleague saw the size of my text messages and reacted by laughing out loud.  Then there was the time I took a shopping list to the supermarket and could not see what was on it; a problem which I then sought to overcome by holding the list as far away from my face as possible.  And then Covid, where my glasses and mask refused to peacefully co-exist and I spent most of my time trying to see through the fog. 

It’s not just my deteriorating eyesight.  I have completely lost touch with popular culture.  Once, I knew who all the best singers were and what position they’d reached on the charts.  Now I’m completely and utterly adrift.  It’s got to the point that I don’t even know what a Doja Cat is.  I’ve made things worse for myself by making fun at my own expense.  When one of the kids asked me about the Ice Age, I described it as the ‘best years of my life’.   I now routinely claim to be connected to various historical figures – Julius Caesar was my flat mate at Uni, Winston Churchill was my paperboy.  That kind of thing. 

Age-shaming myself is one thing.  Being age-shamed by others, especially in a retail setting, is another thing altogether.

I like to run.  Not very fast and not very well, but I choose to believe that it’s keeping me fit, even if I am occasionally overtaken by someone pushing a pram.  (It’s happened.  More than once.)  When I run, I put my Apple iPhone in a little armband-pouch thingy that sits on my bicep.  That way, I can listen to fast-sounding music and imagine that I’m moving at a far greater clip than I actually am.

 The trouble with the Apple iPhone armband pouches is that they tend to wear out after a while and need to be replaced.  When I noticed some critical fabric had started to tear, I knew its days were numbered and I should do something about it.  Ordinarily, I wait until disaster strikes, but in this instance I was unusually proactive; keen to avoid it breaking when I least expected it to and have my phone fly off somewhere into the distance.

I don’t wish to name names, so for the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to the store as ‘JB Hi-Fi’.  I started by searching the shelves but found nothing.  I then had to strategically position myself near a member of staff who was helping someone else so that, once finished, I could pretend I’d just remembered I had a question to ask; as though there’s something slightly pathetic about deliberately loitering in a vain quest for service.  As I stood, pretending to be interested in the large array of influencer lights (it’s a thing!  Who knew?), I hoped that the person currently hogging the scarce staffing resource would hurry up and pick a toaster.  Any toaster would do.

Eventually, I got my chance at which point I casually tackled the staff member to the ground to prevent anyone else getting in first.  After all, there are lots of people in this world in desperate need of a decent toaster.  I asked whether they stocked the Apple iPhone armband pouch thingy.  He replied, ‘We should’.  I answered, ‘I know’.  He then looked at a computer screen and, either because he misinterpreted it or he didn’t believe what the computer was telling him, began to inspect each shelf individually.  Finally, he found another staff member – tall, dreadlocked and standing at the doorway, feigning interest at the receipts people were flashing as they exited the building.  He asked whether she’d seen any Apple iPhone armband pouch thingies.  Flicking her dreadlocks behind her, she said: ‘I haven’t seen one of those in ages.’

 The message was clear.  I was a relic, a dinosaur.  Old enough to have legitimately claimed Julius Caesar as a member of my share house.  I had been royally aged shamed.  The staff here were young and cool and hip and, clearly, I was none of these things.  Dejected, I left and shuffled next door to Officeworks.

I find Officeworks strangely comforting.  Just as some people who are not me find Bunnings to be a home away from home, there is something about multiple rows of well-organised stationary that I find soothing.  Some people listen to whale noises to help them sleep.  I only need to glance at the Officeworks catalogue and I’m practically unconscious.

There they were.  Apple iPhone armband pouch thingies, as far as the eye could see.  In an instant, I was no longer a relic, but someone whose preference to take their phone with them when they run was considered entirely legitimate.  I bought two.  For safety’s sake, you understand.  Clutching my purchases and my receipt, I walked back past JB Hi Fi at which point I pressed my purchase to the window and gesticulated wildly, saying, ‘Do you like Apple iPhone pouch thingies? Well, how do you like these Apple iPhone pouch thingies?’  She looked confused.  Or at least I think she did.  I’m not sure because I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time.