Honestly, did I really need another reminder that I was old?

I thought I paid my dues this year with a few more wrinkles, deeper frown lines, a couple of extra sun spots, and a pair of eyeglasses that I was now required to use when driving.  Oh, and the addition to my never-again list of a few more foods which now give me indigestion.

So, did I have to suffer yet another indignity of aging, in front of a complete stranger, no less?

No, I didn’t lose bladder control.  I lost my fingerprints!

Let me explain how this came to light.

My husband and I had applied for the Global Entry pass that is supposed to make air travel a little easier.  If you have this card, you can bypass the lines at security and immigration by checking yourself in or out using a special kiosk.  Whether this method is preferable to being escorted in a wheelchair remains to be seen.

In any event, since neither of us could justify needing a wheelchair just yet, we thought we would obtain these cards, and become official “ trusted travelers.”

Part of the process of qualifying for this privilege is an in-person appointment at an office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Our appointment was in Ft. Lauderdale, at a building adjacent to the airport.

(Not knowing exactly where it was, I entered the address into my car’s GPS system and set out with every confidence that we would be easily guided to our destination.  I should have known that the day would not be perfect when my GPS was flummoxed by all the construction at the airport, and had us driving around in circles for twenty minutes.  But that’s a story for another day.)

We were interviewed by a friendly, uniformed officer (I think they’re called “officers.”  Or maybe they’re called “agents.”  I’m not sure.  In any event he was friendly).  We responded to the routine questions and each of us in turn had our pictures taken.  So far, so good.

Also required was a set of fingerprints.  I went first.  Guess what? They don’t use ink pads any more.  Instead, fingerprints are recorded biometrically using computers and a scanner.  It’s simple, really.  All you have to do is place four fingers on a piece of glass and the computer reads your prints.

Reads YOUR prints, maybe, but unfortunately, not mine!

The nice gentleman tried again.  Then, once again.  But neither my left or right hand would yield a set of readable, unsmeared fingerprints.

Naturally, I became concerned.  Had I contracted some exotic disease that was slowly stripping away my identity?  But then this formerly nice man then tells me not to worry.  This frequently happens with old people.  Old people!!!

Apparently, says Google, as we age, our skin loses elasticity.  (Every woman knows that already!)  The ridges that form our prints get thicker, the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there is less prominence.

The problem was eventually solved by applying some lotion to my fingertips, which magically allowed the scanner to take its impression.  The no-longer-nice man also informed me that I might have to apply some lotion to my fingertips every time I try to use one of the Global Entry kiosks at the airport.  Otherwise, it may not be able to read my prints.

Great!  My Global Entry card that was supposed to eliminate some of the stress of travelling has just added a new anxiety.  Maybe I’ll opt for the wheelchair after all.

I also learned from Google that the FBI website has instructions for taking fingerprints of elders and others with impaired “ridges in the pattern area.”   So not only am I member of the social security set, but I’m also part of a new sub-culture of people with impaired ridges.

But having this knowledge is not very helpful.  I’m still left with the sorry news that I’m now an old person with one less distinctive feature, and wondering what comes next.  And it is not particularly comforting to know that there are others like me.

Someone or something has played an ironic prank.   Or else, why would time remove the creases from where we need them, and add new creases to where we don’t?  It saddens me that Mother Nature isn’t perfect.

Either that, or she possesses a very wicked sense of humor!

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