During what I now call ‘my year off’ (when I was unemployed and living with my parents after college – so much for a law degree being a sure-fire guarantee of a job), I received a questionnaire from the local Health Authority.
It was one side of A4, and asked about a dozen questions, with a little box for ‘any comments you may have’ at the bottom. The first couple of questions were straightforward enough, but then things took a turn for the slightly odd, with queries such as
Are you still able to laugh, and maybe enjoy a programme on the wireless?
Do you sometimes feel a little sad that many of your friends are dying?
Gathering that it was probably aimed at someone of slightly more advanced years, I completed the questionnaire, added ‘By the way, I’m 23’ in the ‘other comments’ section and sent it back. Not much to my surprise, I heard nothing more on the subject. I guess whoever it was that was responsible for sending out the paperwork realised that I shouldn’t have been on the mailing list.
Flash forward fourteen years, to this week. The scene, the penthouse flat I share with my lovely fiancee. The two of us are reclining on chaises longues (oh, all right, comfy sofas) when the phone rings. I pick up the phone. Cue change of format:
Me: Yes, hello. You rang me.
Woman: Is that Mr Soanes?
Woman: Oh, hello, this is Debbie from Acorn Stairlifts.
Me (to fiancee):This’ll be good.
Woman: We specialise in solutions for people who find it difficult to get upstairs. Would that apply to you?
Me: Not really, I’m 37.
Woman: What ? Oh… (starts to laugh)… probably not, then.
Me: No, I don’t think so. Bye.
Woman: (Still laughing) Goodbye.
Despite the fact that I wholeheartedly agree with Groucho Marx’s theory on age (“you’re only as old as the woman you feel”), I seem to get this sort of thing a lot – letters arrive every month or two offering me insurance for the over 50s.
Someone must have been telling lies about me, and I wouldn’t really mind them adding decades to my age if it meant I’d also gained an appropriate amount of wisdom and experience… but I think it’s painfully obvious that’s not the case.