"Your wrinkles either show that you're nasty, cranky and senile, or that you're always smiling," Carlos Santana
The chapter in my life called fifty-five years old began in January with much less fanfare than I once thought it would. The year Sammy Hagar broke out with, "I can't drive 55," I was singing to myself 'I'll never arrive at 55.' You see I was a typical vato loco from East LA back then, tattooed, gang affiliated and seething with anger at I knew not what. In those days I scowled much more than I smiled.
Could that explain all the wrinkles on my face today? Maybe it's because I worked in construction for way to many Southern California summers or because one of my passions these days is gardening. Of course my worries over work, health and finances could also be a factor but like we used to say in the barrio, 'If you can't take it then stay out of the penitentiary."
Now don't get me wrong. My beat up old grill doesn't bother me at all. Sometimes it's even humorous. My mother, like my wife, both look young for their ages. So I look more like my mom's brother than her son. My wife and I are almost the same age but you would think there's a decade of difference between us. I get a chuckle out of these things. I was even looking forward to senior discounts and such. Then the bus incident occurred.
I reside in Tijuana, Baja California and the transportation system here consists of who knows how many different companies operating who knows how many different types of vehicles driven almost exclusively by men. Who blast loud music and drive frantically in used American school buses that have seen better days - in other words never a dull moment.
In the semi-rural area of Tijuana where I live there are no set bus stops. You just flag down a bus as it passes by. The drivers only make what the passengers pay. At present the fare is twelve pesos for adults and seven pesos for children and senior citizens. So here's the catch. If the bus driver rents his vehicle, out of his fares he must pull out gas and rental fee. So if he is operating a small jitney type bus (commonly called calafias here) that can only hold so many bags of groceries, dogs, tanks of propane and oh yeah people. Then thirty adults is 360 pesos. Thirty school kids or seniors are only 210 pesos.
What does this mean? It means sometimes a bus driver will 'accidentally' not see a senior citizen because he'd rather save the room for a full-paying passenger. When I first heard two old men talking about this with a bus driver who swore he did no such thing but knew other drivers who did, I just kinda shook my head and said to myself, 'pobre Mexico.'
However, a couple of years later, when it happened to me, boy was I pissed! In my mind I envisioned the bus driver glancing toward me, muttering something like, "Hijole, that guy looks shot out and tore up from the floor up, definitely a senior fare," then speeding past me.
So now the countenance that never bothered me before has become a mug that gives me problems. At least when it comes to catching a bus in Tijuana. But as one of the Tio's in one of my favorite movies, A Million to Juan, says, "One door closes another door opens."
Two of my grandchildren just became parents. That means I'm a greatgrandfather (bisabuelo). And if you ask me I look pretty hot for a bisabuelo.