I sat on the back row beside a couple whom I deemed to be even older than I, though it is hard to tell at the opera who is older than whom.
I don’t even think there were any 50 year olds there yesterday. I judge people’s age by the curve of their spine, the pace of their walk, the thinning of the women’s hair, their need to have an appliance with them to keep them stable, the care with which they lower themselves into their seat, the speed with which they can get out of the same chair, and sometimes even the smell – there is a smell that signals “old person”. We weren’t into the opera for very long and I could hear the high whistle of hearing aid that needed adjusting. The whistling sound didn’t go away and I thought, “Well, here goes. I am just going to have to pretend I am in an old folks home for the rest of the opera.”
When the half came, but we were still in the dark, listening to Diana Damrau and Grigolo and the man beside me began to make quite a commotion getting up, talking loudly to his companion who was helping him, and getting aid from another woman on the side isle. I thought they were taking him out to get in an ambulance. But soon he was back down on the ground on all fours saying I am sorry, I am so sorry. Still I didn’t move not being able to figure out what I would do if I did try to help him. When I heard him murmur hearing aid the light went on for me. I tried to remember which pocket I had put my phone in, remembering that the last time I saw Rebecca she had moved the icons around on my phone so that I could get to my flashlight easily. I powered up my phone and didn’t even need to get to the flashlight on, the screen was so bright. I pointed the light toward the ground and began to run my hand over the cement as he was, looking for the lost hearing aid and whispered at the same time, “Look we have a light. We can find it.” For some reason, I was looking for something as small as a battery, so when I saw the hearing aid I was surprised at its size and continued to the man, “I’ve got it. Look. Here it is.”
That old man was grateful when I put that in his hand. It took a long time for him to get from all fours, back to an upright position. I stayed in my seat while he made the transition and settled down. In that time I began to think how glad I was that I had brought all of the items with me that I begrudge gathering up before I leave the door. That was the moment when I remembered that I had forgotten to transfer my bus pass from my larger purse to my going-to-the-opera bag. So I got to think about whether I would buy a ticket on the way home, or risk getting a summons because I was travelling without proof of payment. But I had remembered 4 out of 5 items which is still getting it 80% right.