Concession card


White, Peter R. (Routledge, October 2008, ISBN 9780415445306)

When I started secondary school in the eighties Victorian schoolboys and schoolgirls could apply for a concession card that let them buy cheaper tickets on buses, trams and trains. To apply, you filled out a form with your details and glued a photograph of yourself over a rectangle they provided on the form. The railway clerk separated the section with your photograph along an official perforated line, stamped it, laminated it and gave it back to you as your concession card.

When I applied for mine, I glued the photograph on sideways (leaving a lot of space on either side of my head so it filled the rectangle). The railway clerk would have to decide if he faced a smart aleck schoolboy on a lark or an earnest imbecile who’d glued his picture on sideways through mental incapacity.

I slid the form across the countertop.

“A concession card please,” I said.

The clerk detached the perforated section and looked at the sideways picture. He blinked. He looked up at me. I smiled back with a look of amiable earnestness; the serene smile of a person for whom everything happens by a sort of magic.

He looked back at the photograph. Then back up at me again. I could seem him thinking it over. He furrowed his savage brow.

In the end, I think he suspected me a smart aleck but decided he couldn’t afford to take the chance.

“No worries,” he said.

Without another word, he got a glue stick and pair of scissors out of the drawer. He cut the picture out, rotated it, trimmed the space on either side of my head and glued it back on to the form; just as if they always did it this way.

As a result, the picture on my concession card wound up half the size of everyone else’s. Ticket sellers had to hold it up right next to their faces and must’ve wondered why whoever made it had accepted the form with such a tiny photograph.


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