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La tercera edad is how you say “senior citizen” in Chile. Someone is of the third age when they reach retirement, which is 65 for men and 60 for women, though there has been talk of raising the age for women. Which maybe makes sense, since women tend to live longer, but far be it from me to take earlyish retirement away from my hermanas at 60 if that’s when they want to stop working. In fact, there are many injustices in the much-lauded Chilean pension system (the workers themselves may direct what kind of investments to put their money towards, and this system has been repeatedly referenced in the United States where social security moneys may not be directed by the payees), and the disparate age of retirement for men and women is just a small blip on the screen. The fact that women collect their deceased husband’s pension, but that men do not collect on their deceased wife’s pension comes quickly to mind.

At any rate, being of the third age in Chile affords you a few benefits, discounts here and there, reduced entry movie tickets, and a much lower cost on the metro and bus. The regular fare is 420 pesos (about 85 cents) during peak hours, 380 during non-peak hours, with special fares for students and seniors.

One day when my mother was here, we were taking the metro, and she asked me if there was a special fare for seniors. There is, and we wondered how we could get it. Not because my mother cannot afford the extra pesos, but because if there’s a benefit, well, then who wouldn’t want to take advantage of it?

So we asked the woman in the boletería (ticket booth) how we could go about getting my mother on the train for the reduced fare.

me: Hi, I’d like to buy a reduced-fare senior ticket for my mother (pointing). What do I have to do to do that?

her: is she retired?

me: yes

her: does she have her pay stubs showing that she’s collecting on her pension?

me: she’s not from here

her: well, she needs her pay stubs.

me: but she’s not from here, we have a different system in my country.

her: but you can’t get the senior citizen card without the pay stubs.

me: what do you do for foreigners?

her: you’ll have to go to the main office to find out.

me: do I need to show an ID-card to buy the reduced-fare ticket?

her: no.

me: I have an idea. What if you just sell me a senior-citizen ticket?

her: what?

me: let’s pretend this conversation never happened, and you just sell me a senior citizen ticket.

her: Okay, that’s 120 pesos.

me: thanks.

my mom: what happened?

me: nothing. Take this ticket and walk through the special yellow turnstyle.

Guards: remain silent, see woman of the third age pass through the reduced-fare turnstyle and reunite with her daughter on the other side.

mom: what happened?

me: we didn’t break any laws, but we just confused the bewhosis out of the woman in the boletería.

mom: did I get the reduced fare?

me: yes you did.

mom: what should we spend it on?

me: more metro tickets?