I just earned my first dollar for being an old fart
I saw it up there on the price list display as I was waiting for my haircut last week -- a $1 discount for people over the age of 55. It was $16 without the discount, so this was like a 6 percent break -- and yes, I did the math by myself -- but now I had a decision to make: Do I take the cut on the cut, and therefore, in essence, admit that I'm old, or do I forego the free buck and preserve the lie I tell myself daily that I'm still as young and virile as the blonde hunk who plays Thor in the movies?
Well, OK maybe that's not the best comparison. I'm not blonde. But I took the dollar, I did, although I made the cosmetologist swear on a stack of Bibles (yeah, I know, rather odd that there just happened to be one right there on the counter) not to tell anyone I qualified. This was a momentous occasion for me, see, the first time I have availed myself of the generous breaks that some businesses award to those of us who have attained what so many call 'senior citizen' status. I know, you wouldn't think that a guy who still eats Frosted Pop Tarts for supper and considers 'The Muppets Take Manhattan' one of the greatest flicks ever filmed would be considered among the most mature among us, but then, I suppose society has to draw such a line somewhere. If it's 55, so be it. I'm 57. Again, by my own math, I qualify.
I credit it to my overly oily skin that I sport few wrinkles or other exterior signs of aging, so most people are modestly surprised when I tell them how old I really am. The most common reply is, 'Wow, but you act like you're 12,' and I get that, but I remind them that just because I stomp my feet and hold my breath if I don't get my way, it doesn't mean I'm immature.
What? It does? Really? Well, I'll be darned. That explains why both of my ex-wives repeatedly said, 'You're such a child.' Good to know.
I was kind of happy until last week that no one had heretofore offered me a so-called 'senior citizen' discount. I know many restaurants at which I've dined offer them, but each time I'd hand a waitress my debit card or pay at the cash register, no one before now had said, 'And here's your discount, sir. Have a nice night in the rest home.' In fact, I had thought a time or two of clearing my throat while gesturing toward the discount sign to alert the cashier to my eligibility age, but never quite mustered the nerve. Besides, I figured, most times I had already asked like four times for more crackers for my soup. That's what they get for making it too brothy.
At the salon the other day, I noticed the senior discount while I was waiting my turn and paging though a 'People' magazine (did you know Jennifer Aniston is in favor of a 'Friends' reunion?). I had like 15 minutes to ponder whether or not I should ask for it, and ultimately decided that I'd rather have one fewer dollar in my wallet than ruin the self-illusion that I'm still on the upward climb of life's hill. Yeah, you're right, you'd think the gimpy knee and the inability to get up a flight of stairs without stopping for a nap would have taken care of that, but I've been lying to myself for so long now that I'm not sure if I really was raised by a pack of wolves or it's just a story I tell to explain why I smell this way.
During my haircut -- a #4 trimmer up the sides and back and about three-fourths of an inch off the bangs, in case you're keeping notes for your journal -- I chatted with the pleasant young gal about her blue hair (turns out it was a wig), the price of gas, the recent run on toilet paper in the stores (don't worry about me, I told her, I've got enough stockpiled to last the '20s), and the latest trends in whipper-snapper styles (the mullet is back!!).
At the pay desk, I held to my conviction that I would not ask for the dollar, and the young lady, polite as can be, chose not to offend me by asking, 'So, old man, you wearin' Depends yet?' However -- to my chagrin -- without saying a word, she punched up the dollar deduction, automatically assuming that, despite my supple skin and youthful yammering, I am a senior. Then again, she had just buzzed my grayish neck fuzz and heard me use the term 'whippersnapper,' so I suppose I can see where she got it.
I didn't say a word, and instead even gave her the buck back in a generous tip, just because she spent a little extra time on the ear hair issue. I was thinking maybe I should have saved the single and framed it for my wall -- you know, like a new business customarily does with its first greenback -- but I knew I would have just taken it down and spent it the first time I was out of change while having a Cadbury Creme Egg crisis. Anyway, who needs a reminder on the wall that you're old? I can just bend over and try to touch my toes anytime that's in question. Well, since the seal is broken on my senior status, so to speak, I'm figuring I'll be looking for the deals everywhere I go from now on. If the local pharmacy offers an old people break on toe fungus ointment, I'll be there for a tube. Free soda refills for old-timers at the burger joint? Heck, yeah, just don't stand between me and the restroom when my bladder boils over every eight minutes. Who knows, I might even be interested in one of those selflift ing recliner chairs, at 5 percent off due to my advancing years, of course. Why, before you know it, I might get my AARP card and show up at the optometrist's office to get my big discount on new bifocals, and say to the 45-year-old lady behind the counter, 'I remember when I was your age, missy.'
I guess I'm not even sure why the practice of senior citizen discounts began. I know, I know, the elderly are on a 'fixed' income, as if everyone else on the planet somehow has access to unlimited cash, and giving them a dollar back here and there supplements the Social Security check. And, I imagine some of it is just simple respect for our elders, a way of giving a little something back to a generation that guided our youth into responsible adulthood.
Me, well, I don't think I deserve it yet, but if a business is willing to give me a dollar just because the age box on my driver's license says I was born before 1964, I suppose I might as well take it. Those Frosted Pop Tarts ain't free, you know.