Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

I’d Rather Not Be a VIP


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I found myself in a situation today… Where I got special and exclusive treatment that helped me finish my business in 15 mins without standing in lines (a huge achievement in Cairo) while I saw so many elderly men and women who could barely walk, having to queue up in the cold then wait their turn in lines. It’s a coincidence that today there were that many elderly people but regardless.

I should not be the VIP. These elderly men and women should have gotten the VIP treatment. Yes, I am glad I was privileged enough to finish quickly so I could get to work on time… But standing in a queue would have been less of a hardship for me. If a place is capable of giving exclusive treatment to some people, then the elderly should also automatically qualify for that treatment..

I remember seeing in the US and UK all kinds of discounts and special things for people above 60 (and although 60 is really not that old, people’s health is different and some people can really benefit from special treatment at a point in their lives. They don’t have to use it if they’re feeling well, but the option should be available to them).

I know that opening this door might open it to other things. Like pregnant women. I remember being 7-8 months pregnant and having to spend long hours in really uncomfortable governmental institutions (with bad bathrooms – horrendous when you’re in your late pregnancy).

In some supermarkets there’s a special express lane for the elderly and that’s cool.

But there should be more. People wait all their lives. When they’re older they should not need to rely on people’s kindness to give them their place in the queue. Kindness to them should be institutionalized and generalized. Does that even make sense? It should not be a favor a couple of people do to you if you’re lucky. It should be a right you’ve earned.


  1. I always feel embarrassed getting the Senior’s Discount at the grocery. Being in the check-out line with younger people attempting to feed their kids good food, seems THEY deserve the discount. Plus, in the winter here, the kids are so happy to get out of the house they dash up and down the isles like some kind of sporting event. Burning calories like crazy while increasing their appetite, their parents should at least get a small reward for care and maintenance of these little eating machines.
    For me, I should probably at least give a speech at discount time thanking all the Doctors, Surgeons and friends who’ve kept me alive to this point.
    Wonder if the problem here is we’ve assigned the delivery of services to organizations and those organizations streamline people into receivers of policy? A type of prejudgment made necessary by the design limitations of trying to provide equal services to a diverse range of people all with differing needs?
    Not necessarily related but years ago as a family we went to the 1986 British Columbia Exposition. Spread over acres of plazas, the designers had made sure there were lots of public toilets everywhere. Being there with two Daughters and one wife, it soon became clear that an equal number of dedicated toilets for men and women was a bad design feature. Setting aside the reasons for this, it became normal that by 10:00 AM every day, women had begun commandeering and reassigning blocks of men’s bathrooms to female use only. What I found interesting was though the people as individuals on-site changed daily, the reassigning process seemed predictable and spontaneous.
    It’s possible this type of unpredictable behaviour is a quality of being human? Or maybe only under certain circumstances? Ironically, it makes sense to institutionalize kindness or consideration to overcome the institutions’ habit of de-humanizing. Thanks for the posting.

    • Hey Scott. I actually wonder if maybe some spaces should be “ok to be noisy” (with kids) because I assume (based on some elite spaces here in Egypt) that some older (not necessarily elderly mind you) people prefer being in quieter spaces. I hate being a parent who feels bad about the noise or commotion my kid makes and I feel like people should bw understanding, but I also like it when there are spaces that welcome it explicitly.

      Re bathrooms. You’re SO RIGHT. There are many reasons why women need the bathroom more often and for longer (including but not limited to that they’re likely to take both male and female young kids to the bathroom more often than men do) – love that story!

    • P. S. I SAW in the US a concept of a “family bathroom” and I loved it!

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