Now, if I may say so myself, Im a pretty youthful guy. I have a long hair, and I wear the same clothes I’ve worn since my twenties, and I understand if that creeps you out, dear reader, but that’s the way I am. At some point in my life, in my teens, I became a jeans and a T-shirt kind of guy, and that’s just what I’ve been ever since. (With one minor but important change about 17 years ago when I stopped using socks).
That’s just a fact, I’m not bragging nor am I trying to trash myself, you take it for what it’s worth and if you’re like my buddy R who thinks people should dress age appropriately, you may think I’m a fool. (He’s British). I’m not doing it to be like the kids today, and the fact that I’m wearing jeans and T-shirts may actually be proof of it. I’m not sure kids wear the kinds of clothes I wear, and I also know that you could pick me out of a lineup of twenty-somethings. I just do what I’ve always done.
Also, I’m short, and for some reason that seems to throw a lot of people off. Now, this is a very unscientific finding, since the sample size is very small, a unit of one – even though the study has been going on for decades – but it seems to me that somehow the human brain expects things to grow to a certain height, and if you’re shorter than the average, the expectation is that you’re still growing. (Until you get to be old enough, when people begin to assume that you’re shrinking. That last bit is based on observations, not personal experience).
It also means that if you’re somewhere with a taller guy – and if you’re shorter than average, that happens a lot – people seem to take the tall people more seriously, and explain things to them (expecting them to explain things to you?).
Now, by now, I’m used to it. In elementary school, I was the second shortest boy in my class, and in high school I was the shortest boy in my. To me, that’s the way the world works. Sort of. Well, that’s a truth with a modification.
Of course I think about it. Of course I hear about it wherever I go, or at least I did, but I also learned to deal with it, and it became a part of my life. I got used to seeing the world the way it looks from my height, and I forget that it can even be different from another point of view.
I’m just saying that sometimes people may not be able to place me in the correct age bracket, and I’m so old that it does make me feel good.
Yesterday, I took Son and Daughter to Helsinki to buy books, and we parked our car in a downtown garage. One of the things you only see once you’ve lived outside of Finland for a while are the ubiquitous slot machines. They’re everywhere. Every corner store has one or two, and the bigger supermarkets’ lobbies look like cheap hotels in Reno.
I’m not much of a gambler, but for some reason, I decided to try my luck with the 2.80€ I had in my pocket. I walked up to a digital one-armed robber, and inserted my one-euro coin, selected my lines and pressed play. I won 80 cents. I locked all five lines again, and pressed play. I heard a store announcement but I was so excited about my win that I didn’t pay attention to it.
I paid attention to the sound of four 20-cent coins rattling down from the machine. I thought it was weird because I hadn’t collected by wins yet so I picked them up and inserted the first one again, but it went right through the machine.
“What the…,” I muttered to myself and then Son told me about the announcement.
“Hey, the lady at the cash register just said, ‘boys, leave the slot machine alone’,” he said.
“What?” I asked him.
“Yeah, she said that we weren’t allowed to play.”
I looked at the machine. It now said, “Blocked.”
I thought it was weird that she’d turn the machines off like that since in Finland, you have to be 18 to play the slots, and … well, I’m older than that. I asked Son which one of the ladies had said it and he told me she’d just made the announcement and left. I thought she might come to the slot machines to talk to me so I waited. Partly, because I wanted to see the person who did a thing like that and partly, because I wanted to see the person who thought I was 17. And then see her face when she saw mine and reallized I wasn’t.
I waited for five minutes. Son and Daugher got frustrated, and urged me to just leave it. They thought I might get angry at the person. Daughter actually just left me there, and walked to the door to leave a healthy distance between her and me.
Meanwhile, I was just thinking about why she had done it. Sure, Son had been looking over my shoulder, but she must have seen that he wasn’t playing. Had she really thought that I was 17. Yes, from a distance and from behind … but still. Come on, 30 maybe, but 17?!
I waited another five minutes. Both kids were restless. Daughter had come back to talk me into leaving the store. Son was bored and wanted to leave.
“But, so, what did she say? Did she really say, ‘boys, stop playing?’” I asked them.
“Yeah, that’s what she said,” Son said.
“That’s rude,” I said, as we walked out the door.
But I was smiling.