30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 9

Prompt: your feelings on ageism.

 

This is one of those ridiculous prompts that can be answered in one sentence: Let’s not discriminate against a group of people based on one commonality. Duh.

That said, ageism does exist. I feel it and I’m not “old” – depending on what you consider old. My definition has changed. Age is a number but it’s also a mindset. Older employees may cost more – health insurance, sicks days, etc. They might be set in their ways and refuse to learn new things. When you lose a job (for whatever reason), it’s much harder to find a new one the older you get. They have worked for so long, it’s hard to match their salary and very often employers will choose a younger, less experienced candidate because they can offer them less money.

I’ve worked in offices since I was 14. I used to be the youngest employee and somewhere along the way, things flipped and my bosses were suddenly younger than me. In one case, this happened while I was still a grad student.

One of my first jobs – in 1985 – after a dismal first year in college, I was asked to join a local chapter of a national humanitarian organization to enter all their volunteer records into this new thing called a database. In a computer. I was frightened. My typewriter and I, we were likethis. I didn’t see the point in computers (this was way before the Internet). But I needed the job so I spent a summer doing data entry. My tiny desk was near a woman named Marlene (now deceased so I can use her real name). She smoked like a fiend. In the office. That’s how it was then.

She was an administrative assistant and very nice with one of those gravelly voices long time smokers have. She was from Connecticut, so a Yankee gravelly voice. But she knew a lot and was very helpful and also thankful that I was at the computer and not her.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of coworkers decades older than me and they generally belong to two groups: those who are fonts of information and keep their skills sharp and those who haven’t but have been around so long no one has the heart to let them go. They sort of tread water until retirement. I feel like I belong in both categories depending on the day. I once worked with a guy (same organization, few years later when I had a different position) who, in his heyday was well known in P.R. circles. His day had come and gone but he’d been retained because of who he knew (those still working in the biz) and was a decent enough guy but he belonged to a Mad Men era where lunches were long and boozy. He’d leave around 11:30 to meet his chums at the club and roll back in around 2:30 and let out these farts like a Morse Code. Fwat, fwipp, phot, pooot! All down the aisle of cubicles. I don’t even know, because I think his hearing wasn’t first rate, whether he was fully aware that we could hear (and smell) him. Marlene was still a relevant worker (despite killing us all slowly with her second hand smoke) and this man was….well, debatable.

I’d like to stay where I am for another 10 years, after which time my kids will, I hope, be done with college and off on their own. At which point, at around 59 or 60, I’ll pull up stakes and find another place to live, preferably without a mortgage. I can take any job that’ll have me. I won’t need to worry about “career” any longer. I’ll continue to grow, stay sharp, live frugally, and perhaps that next step will be obvious by the time I get there. But I don’t want to cling on to something just because and then fade out. And I can guarantee you that I’ll keep my farts to myself.

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