Saturday, July 2, 2011

Aging Gracelessly

The change was correct; it was the receipt that bothered me. I couldn't understand why I had been given the senior discount at the fast-food place.

In some narrow chronological sense, of course, I qualified for it. But I was in the drive-through, and the lady with the garbled voice who took my order was somewhere inside. How ever did she know?

Age has its privileges, mostly in the form of discounts. Discounts are wonderful things, and I am not too proud to avail myself of them. But I thought it would be a while before sales clerks could take one look at me - or simply hear my voice - and pronounce me deserving of them. Given my well-preserved features and immature demeanor, I assumed I'd have to fight for discounts until I was well into my 70s. And I was gleefully girding myself for battle.

A few years ago, in the weeks leading up to one of those birthdays that end in zero, I received a Golden Buckeye Card. The State of Ohio had given me a powerful identification tool I could use to stun and embarrass sales clerks. Or so I thought.

I pictured myself at the checkout, watching the clerk ring up my purchases. Then, just before she hit the total button, I pulled out my Golden Buckeye Card and held it two inches from her nose, in the manner of a television cop.

"Tom Harris, high-end Boomer," I said with great authority.

"Mr. Harris, I'll need to see your driver's license," she replied in the snippy manner the young have when they're given a modicum of authority.

"Look, young lady, this is a Golden Buckeye Card issued by the State of Ohio and it entitles me to certain rights and privileges, including discounts on my purchases at this store."

"I know what it is. Do you think I'm like blind?" she said. "If you want the discount, you'll have to like show me your driver's license. And if you don't stop acting like some four-year-old with a plastic badge and a toy pistol, I'll call the manager."

"Actually, I've always thought I was more like Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS..."

"Yeah, right," she mumbled while working over her chewing gum. "Just show me your license."

"OK, here it is. Read it and weep, Little Miss Priss."

A triumphant smile spread across the clerk's face as she took my license. But then, as she examined it, her gloating faded to shame and remorse.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Harris," she said.

"Apology accepted. It happens all the time."

"As you probably know, a gang of really evil 40-somethings is flooding the system with counterfeit Golden Buckeye Cards," she said. "The manager told us, we have to ask for a photo ID from every really young looking person who attempts to use one. It's not my fault you look so young. I busted two guys this morning, and they both looked at least 10 years older than you."

"They probably should eat more carrots," I said.

"And maybe I should be a little slower to accuse," she said. "I'm like so embarrassed."

"Don't worry about it. No one likes to be mistaken for a youthful miscreant, but we all have to make sacrifices to preserve the integrity of the system."

"Thank you for being so understanding," she said. "Here's a $50 gift card for your trouble. Do have a nice day."

I don't know why, but nothing even remotely similar to this has happened to me.

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