It took one week of Maryland sub-freezing temperatures, an attempt to turn spring into winter, when I surpassed my cold-limit. No desire to step outdoors, no desire to breathe with ice breath, no desire to layer up like the michelin man, no desire to go for a run. Digging though a pile of sports bags tucked into a closet that rarely opened, the trifecta of swim suit, swim cap and goggles appeared, exactly where I left them years ago. Swim gear that would transform to running gear. Indoors. At the deep end of the county public pool. Which required a pool pass. Not for a day, not for a week. An annual commitment. And access to the pool is based on age. I had aged considerably since my last pool appearance. You’ll need a senior pass, ma’am, the grey-haired man behind the desk said, and when I realized that benefit came with a discount, I dropped the age-denier chirade.
The process of acquiring a county pool pass began with filling out the required paper form and handing it into the front desk person. A senior himself, and not entirely on-board with using the fancy County issued computer, I felt sad that my need for a run in the water was aging this employee before my eyes. He struggled with reading the screen, and needed to look at the keys to type. Clearly overwhelmed by technology, I wondered if running in the frigid temperatures was really that bad. Hit the F5 button to refresh the screen, I would suggest looking over his shoulder, wanting to reach over his keyboard and type my name into the search field, and then deciding that might not be appropriate, so I opted to encourage his efforts, press the enter key, hit the backspace, try clicking on that little link, and then explaining what I meant by the word link. As a senior, I developed an on-the-spot patience that was outside of my younger-years personna, and I could practically feel my hair going gray. Not everyone grew up with computers. Not all computer applications are intuitive, and when the screen froze I suggested pressing F5 to refresh the screen. I knew from his stoic staredown of the computer screen, that we were in for an extended visit. What’s an F5 button, he would eventually say, and when he finally suggested that I could fill out the application online at home, I was only too eager to agree.
Back home, I sat among my friends, three laptop computers, always on, each having a different purpose, one for writing, one for work and one for research and I thought how lucky my computers each have a purpose in life, something I was still hoping to discover and perhaps Google could help with that? It couldn’t, a question to be pondered another day, so I returned to the business of setting up my county pool pass. After numerous Google searches, clicking forward and back, and shaking my head, no, this wasn’t the correct form for a senior, why are the senior options so hard to find, why am I suddenly sensing senior, and how did I accidentally rear-end my way into the County’s membership app website – where I had the option to add a Senior to the shopping cart? Oh the joy of senior-hood, and not really knowing the answers to so many questions.. I managed to fill out the form, more complicated that most forms that I could remember, then remembering – I’m a senior, things are supposto be complicated, and paid the bill online, satisfied that all of this was worth it to save $200 on an annual pool membership. I printed out the form. Two bar codes and a message. Bring the form back to the swim center, and they will print your pass.
Returning to the pool the next day, my senior front desk friend was on his shift, and I happily relayed the good news. Both of us, being seniors and all, had bonded, and I was certain he was glad to see me, for one more opportunity to suggest buttons to press with that county issued computer. I paid online I explained and it was his turn, to print my access card. What card?, he said, and I knew we would be spending more time together. After some gentle coaxing, code for moving in slow motion, he agreed to sit in front of his computer, and I helped him to pull up my account, but to his credit there were no options for printing out a swim pass. How do you do it for others, I wanted to ask, but our friendship was in the early stages so I thought that could wait.
A group of elderly men gathered, they had finished their lap swim, and I gathered from their comparison of war stories (WWII I guessed), I knew that I was on my own with regard to solving this computer problem. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this, I said without hesitation, and my new friend, Bob, the elderly man at the front desk, and I were on a first name basis. He said he had no doubt that I would solve the dilemma, fatherly-like, and would I mind if he sat down for a few minutes, hard to stand and all, and I didn’t mind one bit. I had access to his computer, and I was careful not to do my usual thrashing through screens, returning my eyes to my paperwork and those two bar codes on my receipt.
Why don’t we try to scan these and see if they work? I said to Bob, and his group of senior men, those who had finished their swim workout had gathered with oohs and aahs and I had a cheering section. I have a feeling, that if you scan these codes, it will recognize me, I continued, and one of the men high fived another, the anticipation building. She’s a smart one, I heard one of the men say, the one with the cane who swims every day, and when the bar code BEEP was heard by all, Bob held my paperwork high overhead with a big grin and declared that this woman was a genius, and I insisted that sometimes technology just takes a village, but the men had decided an Einstein was in their presence, and began asking the usual, did you group up with computers? no, oh you are a smartie, and so young too, where are you from? oh binghamton?, I hear they have quite the university there, and I agreed it was a good school, still looking over at Bob and hoping he would remember to return my paper with the special bar code, feeling the youth glow around these true-seniors, since I was only a senior for discount purposes. Bob, I can make my own pool-pass card now that we know these bar codes work, I would say, which got him off the hook, and that set off another round of head nodding and approvals, and one of the men asked if he could bring me his computer, would I be back tomorrow, and Bob wondered if he could ask me questions from time to time, now that I’ll be a regular, only after I’m done with my lap runs, he promised.
I returned home that day, glowing from my new octagenarian admirers, opened up PhotoShop, resized the bar codes so they would print the proper size for a wallet-sized card that would become my pool pass and after the second attempt, the sizing was perfect. Returning on day 3, with my self made card in hand, Bob was waiting. He called out my name as I entered the foyer with a wide smile and asked me if I brought the card, of course I did, and handed it to him, and he swiped it using the bar code reader, while I held my breath. My moment of genius, their words, on the line. BEEP. It scanned perfectly, and Bob handed it back to me, nodding his head, taking a bow, and asked if someday, when I had some time, if I could show him how to operate the county’s Pool Pass program, and I couldn’t refuse, now that we had something in common. Senior-hood.
Next: Moments of wonder, while aqua-jogging with the seniors.