INVISIBILITY

 

One interesting side effect of getting older is becoming invisible. If you get old enough, you may forget you are invisible, but that probably won’t happen until you are much older.

When I walk into Home Depot or Lowes to purchase things, I feel obliged to set off a Roman candle to get anyone on the sales staff to notice me. Even undercover security doesn’t follow me around anymore like they did a decade ago if I entered wearing my sleeveless Harley shirt and motorcycle boots.

I guess they think I am too old to shoplift. I am told, however, that if I were Black or Hispanic, I would still have security follow me, but still no one would ask me if I needed help.

When in her twenties and thirties, my wife would have packs of salespeople follow her to offer assistance. But some time in her forties, her groupies began to lose interest. (Actually, I still think she looks good naked, but she won’t let me put up a picture.)

 

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Before she became invisible.

Because of the vagueries of age and the medication I take to contradict them, I have difficulty surfing, can no longer ride my unicycle, and am not seen as a danger. But all this is ironic. What is the irony in all this?

For one thing, my wife and I have plenty of time to do things that involve stuff purchased at either Home Depot or Lowes.

For another thing, even though the average person over 65 has a household income of around $34,000 a year, the average 65 year-old doesn’t have much to spend it on other than things that are purchased at places like Home Depot or Lowes. But the under 50 year-olds spend money on children, school and work clothes, keeping a house, video games for teenagers, and college for older children. We oldies are not limited to such items.

That median annual income of $34,000 is just a median. While many of us barely survive on less, many of us make plenty more than that in retirement. Some of us are very fortunate to be paid well over that just to get up in the morning. We have money to spend and all day to spend it.

What is Madison Avenue’s and corporate America’s answer to this? It is to laugh at us and patronize us.

For example, a couple days ago, my wife and I trekked to the local cell phone store because her smartphone was not working correctly. One of their technical experts, who appeared not to be old enough to down a shot of Jack Daniels, gave a long explanation involving her negligence that made no sense, and then he tried to sell us a new phone. I spent four years of my life as an electronics technician and can read both a schematic and a logic circuit. I knew the problem was in the design of the phone and she had not misused it.

After he dismissively informed us to either buy a new phone or tolerate the malfunction, he entered into a conversation with a colleague about which is better: Star Wars or Star Trek, as though my wife and I would know nothing about either. That Star Trek appeared in the late Sixties and Star Wars in the late Seventies for Baby Boomer audiences meant nothing to them. To them, my wife and I were both old folks who could not understand their conversation. (Everyone knows Star Trek is far superior to Star Wars. No conversation is needed.)

But we were invisible.

According to Madison Avenue, the only visible Americans are those between the ages of 18-49. If a television show isn’t aimed at that demographic, it most likely will not run, which is why we have so many shows about 40 year-old teenagers.

Seinfeld and Friends were probably the two most influential and well-known shows about 40 year-old teenagers. And, of course, on these shows everyone over age 60 was either never seen or was pictured as an idiot.

How I Met Your Mother, The Mindy Project, and New Girl are today’s examples. Everyone on those shows is a childless, single, serial dater, much like a high school student. Yet, all the lead characters have college degrees, a few have completed professional schools, and on Mindy several have finished medical residencies. But they all act like teenagers.

I don’t know why television pretends I don’t exist or why advertisers don’t realize I have money to spend and time to spend it. I don’t know why Madison Avenue doesn’t want to target my money. But there are advantages to being invisible.

In stores, sales people don’t pester you while you are shopping by repeatedly asking, “Can I help you?” which roughly translates to, “May I lighten your wallet?” And, as I said before, store security does not follow you around. Nobody tries to sell you things you don’t need for more money than you want to spend.

Also, I haven’t had the police follow me for years. At one time I owned a 1991 Ford F-150. The body was dented, paint chipped, rear bumper bent, Harley sticker on the rear window peeling, and the passenger door could only be opened from the outside.

In short, it was the coolest truck I ever owned. It wasn’t one of those super shiny high-rise trucks teenagers seem to favor. Nor was it a pseudo six-passenger family car with a truck bed on the back.

No, it was a real, honest-to-god, rattling, and scratched up truck. And when I drove it, it was a real cop magnet.

Apparently the police think shaggy-haired tee shirt-wearing bearded Old White Guys all sell meth, or at least use it. (For the record, I don’t do either.)

But as I aged, I noticed the police began to drop off earlier and earlier, until by the time I was 60 they stopped following me altogether. I had just become invisible.

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Maybe the shades will help them see me.

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