When I was growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, I thought every adult was old. I really couldn’t tell how old someone was, I just knew that they looked old to me, so they were.
Maybe that’s why the young man gave me the discount.
About a dozen years ago, I went in early one morning to a restaurant that served breakfast. It’s gone now, but when it was around it was one of the few places where you could get real homemade biscuits and gravy, grits, and molasses instead of jelly.
At the end of the meal, this fella who’d been waiting on me, who was about 18 or 19, brought me the check.
And there it was. Screaming at me. A senior discount.
Now keep in mind that I was nowhere near old enough to even qualify for 10 percent off of my tab.
But he gave it to me anyway. Without even asking.
I went to work and told my coworkers about it.
Coworker: “You got a senior discount? Did you ask for one?”
Me: “No. I didn’t.”
Coworker: “Did you complain to the manager?”
Me: “Of course not. I took the discount.”
My frugality is no secret with those who know me.
I went to the office bathroom and looked in the mirror.
“My gosh,” I thought. “Do I really look that old? I don’t feel that old.”
A few years later, I was in a store when a beautiful woman came up to me and said, “Excuse me.”
A lot went through my mind. It had been awhile since a lady had approached me. Being a married man, I’d have to be tactful, yet firm.
“Yes?” I said.
“My dad said if I ever have car trouble to look for someone his age because they will probably have jumper cables. My car won’t start.”
After I helped her get her car started, I suggested she go straight to the auto parts store and get the battery replaced.
As she got into her car to leave, she said, “Thank you, sir.”
Sir. She called me sir.
Needing to wash my hands, I went back into the store and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. I didn’t feel old.
I remembered what my grandparents, even great grandparents, used to say. They didn’t feel any different than when they were 16, but they weren’t 16 any longer and the world thought of them as old.
This was the first time I understood what they meant.
I regretted all of the times I had made jokes about age.
“Come on, granny, kick the ball!” We used to say to each other during football practice.
“Do I need to get you a walker so that you can get down the basketball court better?”
Even my barber decided to get in on things.
“You have quite a bit of gray coming in, Mr. Moore.”
“Cut them out,” I said.
“Won’t be much hair left if I do that,” she said.
And then, recently in the grocery store, it happened again. More than a decade had passed without someone in the food business trying to reduce my bill because of age. But that streak ended.
Grocery Clerk: “I’ve included your senior discount.”
Me: “What makes you think I qualify for a senior discount?”
Grocery Clerk: “Do you not qualify?”
Me: “Yes, I do.”
Grocery Clerk: “Do you not want the discount?”
Me: “Could I get out of this line and come back when new people are in it, and I’ll ask for the senior discount, and then you act like you don’t believe I’m old enough for the senior discount, and then you demand to see my ID?”
Grocery Clerk: “Sir, you’re holding up the line.”
I thought about complaining to the manager, but there were two problems with that. One, I am old enough for the senior discount, and two, my frugality…well, you already know about that.
When I got home I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror, realized I needed my glasses to see anything, and since I couldn’t find them (they were on my head) gave up.
My grandparents and great grandparents were right. I still feel like I’m 16.
Except for my back and knees, which hurt a lot. And my eyes, which need cataract surgery. And my ears, which require hearing aids.
But other than that, I don’t feel any different than when I was 16.
And I don’t understand why these darn kids can’t see that. Including that clerk at the grocery store, whom I need to go back and see.
I forgot the grits and molasses. I hope she remembers my discount.
©2023 John Moore
John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.