I have come to an unexpected conclusion. It’s only unexpected because I hoped that it wasn’t true.

No, that’s not quite right. It’s unexpected because it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be true. I just hadn’t considered it as a possibility.

Here’s what happened. I went to the doctor today and the first event before I had even sat down to wait on the doctor was an interview, standing up.

“What is your name?”

Okay, that was pretty easy. I knew my name so gave it quickly.

“Do you have an appointment?”

Well, I thought I had an appointment. I seldom go to the doctor’s office unless I have an appointment. I figured that giving up my name was enough to permit my appointment status to be confirmed with a quick look at the doctor’s schedule. But okay, I would play. I said that I did indeed have an appointment.

“What is your insurance?”

I get that. The doctor wants to assure that payment is forthcoming before agreeing to actually see me. Even doctors want paid, along with everyone else it seems. Yes, I have insurance so somewhat less quickly gave up that information.

“Please have a seat and fill out these papers. The doctor will be with you after you return the completed papers.”

I guess that appointment I thought I had was only the time to be there to start the paperwork. “these papers” I soon learned was shorthand for several pages and twenty minutes trying to recall who, including me and others in my immediate family and my parents’ families, had any of a very long list of conditions, a few of which I actually recognized as something I probably heard of before. My choices for answers were “yes” and “no.” Where was “I don’t have a clue” when I needed it?

Do I just make my best guess or put a note in the margin about how I think I might have heard someone say something about Uncle Charlie’s having a condition that sounds something like whatever the condition on the list means? That didn’t seem like my best plan, so I just started saying “No,” to whatever was being asked. Two of my three children are alive and doing fine. The rest of the people being asked about have nearly all died. Yes, almost all of them. I’m just glad I wasn’t being asked why each one died. Talk about not having a clue; I had two sisters and at least forty aunts and uncles.

“The doctor is ready for you now.”

It was 45 minutes after I thought my appointment to see the doctor was scheduled when I was taken back to the exam room. Let me cut this short. Forty–five minutes later, including a ten–minute consultation with the doctor, interrupted by a 5–minute break while the doctor talked with someone who was apparently more important than I was, I was headed back to the car. I’ll leave the math for you to figure out how long it took to have a 10–minute appointment with the doctor. Where else would we put up with appointments that are not even very good guesses as to when we will receive whatever service we were expecting?

“Will you like to schedule a follow–up appointment?”

I’ll just let that question hang there for now. “Will” and “like” may not rate the same response.

For now, back to that unexpected conclusion. It was all that paperwork. After asking for my birth date twice, I was asked my age – not once but three times. I immediately knew that they had never heard of computers. Putting in my date–of–birth once would have quickly answered the other four questions. At any rate, my issue was entering my age three times.

After the first time, I moved on, not thinking twice about how old I am. After entering my age the second time, I definitely focused on my age; but after the third time of putting down my age, I found myself actually thinking about how old I am and wondering when I got so old.

That was the surprising conclusion. I am 77 years old. No kidding. I’m really that old.

What image do you carry around for people 77–years–old? I was shocked to learn that I have been carrying around the same image. Now I am forced to apply that image to me and it’s all because of that appointment that didn’t start with seeing the doctor, because of all that paperwork.

The first thing I have learned is that my image of 77–year–old people is wrong today and has always been wrong. It may or may not generally apply to 77–year–old people, but it likely seldom specifically applies to anyone. It for sure doesn’t apply to me. It seems likely that your image of 77–year–old people is like mine. It probably doesn’t work for many, if not most folks my age. We and our stereotype images simply have it wrong.

If I don’t fit my own image of what people my age are like, I wonder what other images I have that are equally wrong. Pick a classifier, any classifier. Pick any image that we think applies to a group of people, any group. The likelihood is that the image doesn’t actually work for many if not most people in the group. For fun, consider your image of Democrats and the one for Republicans. Now contemplate the reality that whatever you think about either group is mostly wrong and doesn’t work at all for many people in the group. If you don’t want to focus on Democrats and Republicans, Use your images of poor people, politicians, immigrants, billionaires, teenagers, or any other group. Just pick a group. Your image is mostly wrong, as is mine.

Try it in the other direction. Pick a group where you currently fit. How do people not in your group perceive people in your group? How well do you personally fit that image? I suspect you get the point.

If I had the inner wisdom that blind people are thought to have, I would have something at least wise, if not profound to close this out. I would have that inner sight that is supposed to compensate for the lack of outer sight. I would also have at least a sliver of musical talent and that enhanced ability to hear blind folks are supposed to have. You would be amazed by the day–to–day things I can do at least as well as your average ten–year–old, like going out and about by myself.

Alas, I am both 77 and blind, so what can you expect? Whatever your image suggests, it is probably wrong, as is my image of you. To prove the point, we would only need to take time to get to know each other better. Now there is an idea really worth considering.