At the Post Office in Lupus Street this afternoon an elderly man in a mobility scooter, frail and fragile, but still strong of voice and will, made his way, electronically, to the service window. He declared that he’d been in hospital for some time and wished to withdraw money from his pension account. To do this, he needed to put his plastic card into the chip and PIN machine, pop in his PIN, and decide how much money he wished to withdraw. Yup, simple as that. We do it over and over and over again without thinking about it.
When he stood up, he was just bones. There was nothing inside his clothes, no definition, no shape at all. He looked like a scarecrow on a pole. He had those thick, huge-rimmed, yellowing-lensed spectacles worn only by very old men. Given that the Post Office must serve proportionately more elderly people than most other high street institutions, one wonders why they don’t have lower counters for people with mobility challenges.
The chap serving at window number three was the very epitome of patience and courtesy. Each time the pensioner went to put his card in the machine, he’d put it in upside down or back to front, and had to try two different PINs before getting the green light. Once he’d established his balance and how much he wished to withdraw, the procedure began again, and of course he’d forgotten again his four digit code. The transaction went on and on, during which time I and many others were served further along the counter. I left without knowing whether he managed to get any cash. He had no helper with him, no-one in the queue offered to assist (including me) but he appeared unfazed by his predicament.
This branch is one of two Post Offices in Pimlico and is under threat of closure. Even the local Tory MP has spoken out in favour of keeping it open. The Post Office argues that the other branch, far away at the Victoria end of Vauxhall Bridge Road, will serve the local community just as well, blithely ignoring the obvious, overlooking that it is already too busy most of the time and, indeed, has considerably less good customer service…
I am sure today’s pensioner would find the additional mile-or-so to Vauxhall Bridge Road too much. What would happen then? Would we need to pay someone from Social Services to collect the money for him? Perhaps he’d just give up and die. I know that’s what the Post Office often makes me feel like doing.
All this brings to mind the challenge of the aging nation, people living longer and longer, advances in medicine meaning that we’ll all live seemingly for ever. No longer three score and ten. 7bn people getting older and older. I wonder what benefit this brings, other than more customers for the Post Office to send miles out of their way to collect their hard-won pensions?
You can sign a petition to keep the Post Office open here: http://tinyurl.com/d9nsk7r