Recently, my local community centre invited seniors to a drop-in. They wanted to find out what services this group of local people would like to see offered at the centre. The drop-in was to be between 1:00 and 4:00 PM on the Tuesday, so I made a note of it on my calendar. They said there would be snacks.
In my imagination there would be a room with a table at one side for the snacks, chairs in groups for conversation, and a few people in my age group standing about eating and chatting. I had never been to this community centre before, so I could only guess what it would look like, based on other similar buildings I have been in when voting and joining exercise classes.
When Tuesday arrived, I decided not to go to the event when it first started because I wanted to allow some time for other people to show up. The place is only a short walk from my home and I wandered over there at about 1:30.
After I stepped inside the building, I stood briefly trying to take in my surroundings. It was nothing like the scene I had imagined. The first thing I noticed was that there was a group of three people having a loud conversation in a hallway. None of them were seniors, as far as I could tell. A man was loudly complaining “I’ve told them! I’ve told them about this several times!” He was not happy.
To my left was a space that was a kind of sunken reading room, separated from the entrance foyer by a step down. In it were two women, also not seniors, choosing and reading from a wall of bookshelves. The reading area had several comfortable chairs and would have been ideal for a drop-in venue if it were not being used as a reading room. I felt as though the loud man should be quieter to allow for the reading to continue, but I doubt he was aware of it.
To my right was an office from which I could hear a spirited conversation, but I didn’t know who was in there or what they were doing.
All of this was a bit bewildering and as I wondered what to do and where to go, a young woman came out of the office and welcomed me. She was quite lovely and understood my bewilderment. When I explained that I had never been in the building before, she said that she was surprised how big the place was when she first came to work there. I explained that I was there for the seniors’ drop-in and she invited me to take something from the snack table.
On the opposite wall was a table filled with delicious-looking goodies and I wondered whether I should take one out of politeness or just leave them because I wasn’t really hungry. As I was making this decision a man approached me and he, too, welcomed me. When I said I was there for the drop-in, he invited me to partake of the snacks. At this point, I figured the snacks were the primary draw to get seniors into the building.
He asked me if I was vaccinated and I pulled my phone out of my purse to show him my vaccination record. As I did so, he explained that he only asked because he wondered if I wanted to have the record and the QR code laminated. I said I didn’t because I had it right there on my phone. That’s when I realized what was going on in the office. The voices I could hear were probably of a couple of seniors who were getting their vaccination records laminated. The man said that many seniors did not have the technical skills to download to their phones and he was finding the lamination service very popular.
I explained that I only came for the drop-in but, looking around me, it seemed as though I was the only senior present. He smiled but didn’t contradict me. Having been turned down for the lamination offering, he invited me once again to take something from the snack table and so I walked over to it and thought about the goodies again.
Then I looked at the bulletin board behind the table, picked up a couple of brochures and put them back again, and decided there was nothing to keep me there. There were no other seniors that I could see, no-one was engaging me in a conversation about what services the centre offers, I wasn’t hungry, and I wasn’t invited to sit down in the reading room. The thought of standing in the hallway with a loud man was not my idea of a good time.
So, I decided I had misjudged the event and that I should leave. I turned to thank the man who did the laminating and said “Well, I just thought I’d put my nose in the door,” and I left. Maybe I should have waited longer to see who else showed up. After all, there were snacks to eat.