Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saving face or saving money?

The cashier hit at least 50 buttons on her register, looked up and said, “That’ll be 25¢.” Her eyes slid past me to the jeans-clad boy in line behind me, his macho-ness skipping over me to envelope her in his studly grip. She smiled at both of us, me by default, as I said, “Excuse me? 25¢?”

“Well, that IS the senior price!” she huffed, as if I was questioning her math.

Ouch. She had immediately pegged me as one of that class of folks over whatever her company’s “senior” age break happened to be. What about all the money I spend on hair color and highlights? The expensive anti-oxidant oil for my face, applied faithfully twice a day? Good heavens—the HOURS in the gym? Everybody around me tells me I don’t look my age. Are they all lying?

Don’t answer that.

On the other hand, 25¢ for a full-sized cup of coffee is hard to refuse on the principle of “I didn’t ASK for the senior price, did I?” Retired or not, money is tight for all of us and a quarter saved is, well, a good thing. And heaven knows I understand the value of saving money, having had to pinch every penny that has ever passed through my wallet. But should that be at the price of a teenager snapping her gum and stamping me with the “OLD PERSON HERE!” label, without even blinking twice?

However, I bet this same child, the one masquerading as the store’s assistant manager, has had others chew her out for not mentioning the “senior” discount to them. I waited in line once, tapping my foot impatiently, as an elderly man took 10 minutes to decide whether he wanted the chicken sandwich or a cheeseburger, vacillating first this way and then that, as if it was an expensive cut of steak he was debating. His indecision was infuriating to everyone witnessing it. He finally made the choice and paid his money. Not until he got his change back did he say, “Did you give me the senior discount, honey?” I thought honey was going to leap across the counter and throttle the guy, old or not. She probably made a mental note after she calmed down  that she would never allow that to happen to her again. Just give ‘em the discount if they look as if they might qualify. Who at corporate would ever know anyway?

I have an idea. Let’s redefine the term. Maybe that will be less offensive to those of us in this quandry. Instead of “seniors,” how about “those with magnificent wisdom,” or “beautifully retired,” or “captivatingly mature”?

Just smile sweetly at me when you say it and then give me the darn discount.

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Henry Louis Mencken

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