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Not all that long ago I was riding on the subway and I stood up for a woman, offering her my seat. She fixed me with eyes of steel and hisssed through gritted teeth: “I don’t need you to give me a seat. There’s not much in it between us as far as age.”

Whoops! But that started me thinking. I would never be as ungracious as that, and I would almost always take the seat, but when someone stands up for me, a little something inside of me dies.

When I was a kid in Chicago, there was a man who used to ride the Sheridan Road bus with an enormous alarm clock tied around his neck and a live rooster on his shoulder. Unexplainable, I know. But that man always got a seat on the bus. In fact he usually got a huge section, if not the entire bus, to himself.

So if you’re thinking to yourself I’m happy to get a seat, who cares why? I suggest going the alarm clock, rooster route. However to the rest of us it is often an “oh no, do I really look that old?” moment. To which the answer is probably, “yes.”

So I sat down with a few friends and we compiled a list of things to avoid if you don’t want to look over the hill. See if you agree.

1. There are certain signature pieces that middle-aged people wear. Avoid them.

A. Mid-calf skirts. They cut women in the most unattractive part of the leg and make them look like they’ve been hammered into the ground.

B. Plastic rain hats. I don’t think an explanation is necessary on this one.

C. A coat that you’ve been thinking I can just get one more season out of…for the past ten years.

D. And for men. Food stains down your front.

2. Get onto the bus like you have a purpose in life. You might know that you are just going to the bank or to pick up your grandchildren, but act as if you are due for a very important meeting.

Of course you need to be careful not to look at your watch too often as that means you’re nervous which would be a dead give away that you are, shall we say, mature. Consider yourself like Captain Kirk striding onto the deck of the Enterprise. The Klingons are threatening to destroy all humankind, but you are ready for action and totally in control. Make it so!

Accessories might include:

A. An expensive briefcase. Something leather, with a name like Aspinal of London or better yet, Gucci. If that’s a bit too rich for the blood, go for a laptop backpack. There’s no need to tear your back muscles with a heavy laptop. You can always just pack your sandwiches in it.

B. The latest iPhone, which you have set to vibrate. It used to be that Blackberry was the go-to business phone, but nowadays it really spells someone who needs that great little keyboard. Read, old.

If you take a call, keep your voice low. After all this is important business you are conducting, not just arguing with the drycleaner who has shrunk your favourite suede jacket. Anyway in your line of work, there are spies everywhere.

And of course have your headphones on. Even if you are listening to a Bach Concerto, jiggle a little bit to the rhythm. A simple head bob will suffice. All music has rhythm, even Bert Bacharach.

Make sure you’ve got Instagram and check it ALL the time for likes. Keep your phone at the ready by holding it in your hand. You may while your juggling your briefcase and your bus fare, drop it on the ground. But that’s just so millennial.

3. Keep your face totally passive. Neither smile nor frown, certainly don’t grumble even if someone steps on your foot or smacks you with a backpack or chews food loudly or has their feet on the seat in front of them. Pretend you don’t notice the cold or the heat or even the rain. Impossible? This actually is the easy part because you will be keeping your face firmly fixed on your phone, checking out all those non-existent likes.

But let’s say the unexpected happens and you are offered a seat. If it were me I’d take it for sure. After all, the game is up. You’ve been busted! Hell, so you might just as well enjoy the moment in comfort.


  1. You can watch all the people on the bus.

See that young lithe girl on her improbably high heels? Imagine the bunions she’s going to have in just a few years.

Or look out the window at that young couple holding hands and know they met on And she hasn’t figured out about his wife and three kids at home plus his first wife and child who he is still paying a bundle for.

Or that young man who looks totally wiped out and know that he is going out with his pals AGAIN tonight. Think of his hangover tomorrow while you’re going home to snuggle down with a sausage and cheese pizza and Netflix

You know, come to think of it I’m not sure I even need two more ways. After all, there must be some perks to getting older and getting a seat on the bus is one of them.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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