Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The travel pass

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Last Wednesday, April 29 was my birthday and the clock hit 66. I can’t believe it but I have my birth cert to prove it. One or two other telltale signs as well.

On the previous Friday my Free Travel Pass arrived and all that was left for me to do was to go into the Dublin Bus office to get my photo ID. I did not even have to wait till Wednesday to use it. There and then I was on free wheels.

Full marks to the Department of Social Protection.  Then on the following Monday information concerning my Contributory Old Age Pension arrived in the post. It is now called State Pension (Contributory). Over the last few months I have phoned the Department on a number of occasions looking for information on social welfare benefits. On every occasion they have been most helpful, polite and efficient. Staff at the Department of Social Protection, thank you.

I have said it before in this column and it can’t be stressed enough. People should inform themselves about the intricacies of the State Pension (Contributory) long before they reach pension age. 

It is an extraordinarily complicated system and people can discover far too late in their lives that they have not enough credits to qualify for the full pension. Had they known in advance they could have paid voluntary contributions. The Department of Social Protection would be well advised to embark on an information campaign in an effort to publicise and explain how the pension works.

For weeks before the travel pass arrived I was looking forward to it. Some months ago I was on the verge of buying a 30 day Rambler Ticket when it dawned on me I would probably not get the full value for it as I’d have my travel pass before all the credit on it had been used up.

On Friday when I opened the envelope and held the travel pass card in my hand a profound sadness came over me. Sitting in the kitchen, looking at the pass I could clearly see the travel passes of both my late parents. There was something terribly sad about it. 

It also dawned on me how time is passing. When my parents received their passes I certainly did not consider them spring chickens. They were relatively young in outlook but they certainly had moved into another league. Has the same happened to me now? I can’t believe that. But I suppose I better. The few times I have so far used the travel pass, as soon as I showed it to the driver I quickly whipped it into my pocket. Do I want people to see that I am an old age pensioner?

Thankfully the Department is currently issuing new all-purpose PPS cards, which the card readers on the buses can read. How long will it be before some polite young person gives up their seat for me?

Or how long will it be before the upper saloon of a double decker bus will be a no go zone for me? It's probably all ahead of me.

It only seems like yesterday since I was taking part in athletic competitions or playing table tennis. Not that I can’t now run or play tennis but it’s different.

I’m as proud as hell that I’m still cycling my bicycle. Indeed, the day that stops will certainly be a crisis moment for me.


Andreas said...

Belated Happy Birthday Michael! Hope you could celebrate a bit with friends!

Here is a happy-birthday-song for you from Udo Jürgens:

"...Life really begins when you're 66!
When your're 66 you have fun living.
When your're 66 you just start going!
When your're 66 you're far from the end!...."


Póló said...

Wasn't aware that the PPS cards were readable by the on-bus reader.

Are you sure?

Must check it out & if so a lot of people will be able to change their (including my) habit of just flashing it at the driver who then presses a button on his number pad so that the number of free journeys can be recorded for Dublin Bus to claim from the Department.

Michael Commane said...

It's not yet in operation. But it is planned.

Póló said...

OK thanks.

And Happy Birthday in retrospect. Remiss of me.

Gerard said...

Ah yes, but it seems such a short time since you were amusing us in your column with tales of people on free travel who confused the names of holiday destinations, and solemnly warning is not to take free travel as a God given right. August 2012, wasn't it? How time flies....

Featured Post

Trump and his empty gestures

This is a briliant piece on President Trump and all he stand for. It appears in The New Yorker. The Trump-Putin summit, a meeting w...