Life & Culture

I’ve just turned six-oh — and with it the age of tech incompetence

I think it might be easier to get a new husband than the various senior discounts to which I’m now entitled


 Although I am usually a fountain of doom and gloom, I have just turned 60 and dredged up two big plus points for this milestone:

1) I have become eligible for certain “senior” discounts

2) It means I am not dead yet

​Number two  requires no further explanation. The main benefit of number one is a free bus/Tube pass. I google how to apply for a Freedom Pass, then begin the process online. But when I fill in my birth date, it tells me I am ineligible on grounds of age. I mean I know I’m immature, but is a website entitled to make that sort of judgment?

After slogging through the usual outgoing bossy directions, options, and delays, I finally get through to a real person. I explain the problem, and I’m told that I’m on the wrong portal, the Freedom Pass one for people aged 66-plus.

I need the Oyster 60+ card. When I point out that it didn’t say that on the web page, merely told me I’m ineligible, with no clarification, the rejoinder is that I am also therefore on the wrong helpline so they can’t help me anyway.

I start again with the correct portal, only now I seem to have thrown the system into confusion. Have I already set up an account or not? Am I a young flibbertigibbet of 60 pretending I’m 66 or a person of 66 claiming to be younger? It doesn’t like my email address or my password, but nor will it let me be a new person trying to register. I select: “forgot password”.

I haven’t forgotten it, even though I’m now a senior citizen; I only keyed it in a few minutes ago and, given that I always forget passwords, I also noted it down in my 60+ spidery handwriting. But it seems to be the only possible path out of here.

I proceed at a doddery pace so as not to antagonise the system, then reach the age-verification section. For this, you need to take a photo of your passport on your phone, email it to yourself, save it onto the desktop, then upload it to the portal.

But it doesn’t work: the jpeg of my passport page has too many megabytes, and the portal won’t accept it.

It offers the option to verify using a driving licence instead, so I key in the details (not easy because the digits and letters are really quite tiny for a person of this age), and upload a photo, but it tells me to check driving licence details again. I check and key them all in again but it still won’t work. So I call the helpline.

I explain the problem and I’m told that, actually, it’s not me — the portal currently won’t verify driving licences but she doesn’t know why. Perhaps it too has reached the stage of life when it would prefer to recline on the sofa with a large glass rather than deal with bus pass applications.

She tells me I’ll have to print out everything and take it to a post office for verification, but our local one has closed down and, as the portal and opening message on the helpline emphasise that it’s so incredibly easy to apply online, it seems absurd that I have to drive to a post office and stand in a queue to do it. She puts me on hold while she goes to consult a colleague about how to proceed. I fill the time by taking another photo of my passport page, emailing, saving it, and uploading it once more — using the flawed logic of the hopeless technophobe that just because it didn’t work last time, doesn’t mean it won’t this time, and anyway I have nothing to lose.

Maybe the portal has had a chance to have a little sit-down because now the jpeg doesn’t exceed the megabyte maximum, so it uploads perfectly well.

When the call handler finally returns, in which time I feel I have aged considerably, I tell her I’ve had success at last and I propose they adopt my much simpler age-verification process: if you can complete your application without needing to call the helpline, then clearly you must be below 60 so your application would automatically be rejected. But if you need to call the helpline at least once, because the portal has you flummoxed, then you are obviously not a digital native and are at least 60. Your free travel pass will be issued without further verification.

In the meantime, The Husband’s own 60+ card has expired because they sent the renewal reminder to his work email, which is now defunct as he has retired.

He tries to renew it online but the computer says no because he missed the deadline, and when he calls them, the “helpline” is fantastically unhelpful and says, no, he’ll have to start again. So, no fun day trips around London with The Husband using my new free travel pass.

The process is so complicated, I think it will be easier to get a new husband. Applications by email. Must have own teeth and bus pass.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive