I was sitting in the student center, cutting and pasting bits of a short zine together at one of the tables usually occupied by the black-leather-clad Magic players.
A woman approached me, looking nervous. Long black hair, long gray wool coat. Stack of papers clutched to her chest. “Can I bother you for a minute?”
“Sure.” I looked at her briefly and then went back to pasting as she started to tell me about the financial advisory company she worked for. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that she was leaning toward me, trying to pick up my head with her eyes, trying to get me to make eye contact with her while she talked at me.
I continued to paste, giving the occasional nod and “uh-huh” to show I was listening. Blah blah blah statistics say, she said. Blah blah blah planning for the future, she said. Blah BLAH blahblahblah blah and wouldn’t I like a free, no-strings-attached financial advisory session with her?
I stopped and looked up. “Well, no, I wouldn’t. Frankly, the idea of a financial advisory session doesn’t interest me at all. Sorry I couldn’t help you.”
She wasn’t ready to give up at that. “What semester are you in?”
“I’m not a student. I just live on campus and use the copiers here.”
“Oh. How convenient.” She paused. I wondered why she was on the job in the empty student center at 9 pm. There were only a few lights still on and I was the only one in the room. “But what about retirement, have you thought about that?”
“I don’t have a job I ever want to retire from.” On the day that I don’t want to write anymore I will be dead already.
She looked confused, but she didn’t ask me what it was I thought I would never want to retire from. “But you really need to think about the future. By the time our generation is ready to retire the public funds will be all dried up.”
I stopped and put my glue stick down. “Listen, I can see already that we have very different opinions about what a person needs when they are old, and I don’t really feel like unpacking mine with you right now.”
I thought about having a community that took care of its elders, about having a profession that I couldn’t imagine ever retiring from, and about how I hoped that by the time I was old and gray there would be, not only no more government funds, but no more government. “Besides, I could be run over by a bus next week. I just really don’t see the point.”
I had hoped that my last remark would convince her that I was a lost cause and should be left alone, but she became agitated in the way that people become agitated when they think they know better than you do what is good for you, and who think that if only you would just listen to them they might save your soul. I should have told her that I was used to living on less than 150 euros a month. Perhaps then she would have given up immediately, no longer capable of imagining me as a potential customer.
She repeated herself, I shook my head. She repeated herself again, and I told her I’d really just prefer if she left me alone. She moved on to the only other person in the room and began her spiel, word for word, once again.