Spring is meant to make us feel young again. Dandelions, a symbol of resurrection. The nesting of birds, a sign of rebirthing. Me? My back aches from pulling those damn weeds and cleaning bird crap off my windows. I feel old.
But I can’t. I’m not allowed to. I’m a Baby Boomer. We are not aging. We are gaining life-enhancing experience and end-game wisdom. And for those of us not good at math – seventy is the new fifty! We no longer dread old age homes because now we have assisted living centres like Cloud Nine and Fading Embers. Sounds great! Makes you want to strap a dirt bike motor to your walker so you can get there faster!
In denying my aging as best I can, I’d sooner starve than dine at a restaurant offering an early bird special. I’d rather pay eight bucks for a bucket of popcorn rather than ask for the senior citizen’s discount on a movie ticket. And don’t get me started on coupons. Those things are ‘age ID cards.’ You might as well produce your birth certificate as a discount coupon at the supermarket.
Like most Boomers I am fighting aging the way we once battled authority. But there comes a time when all age deniers are forced to fish or cut bait. (No, not the Early Bird Fish Fry! Order the Spring Chicken Dinner and then leave before it arrives.) My seminal moment as a birth date disbeliever came at a small diner where I stopped for a bowl of soup at lunch. Like the best of the booth eateries, this was decked out in checkered table tops and tacky humour.
Next to the clock: “Our clock can never be stolen. Our employees are always watching it.” And above the kitchen door: “Eat here and diet home.” Over the urinal in the men’s room was a sign that said: “We aim to please so—please aim!” It looked like the paint was peeling off the sign due to a downpour of acid rain.
So I finish my bowl of soup, beef barley with extra crackers and it was very good. At the cash register, I ask for a bottle of water and two oatmeal cookies to go. The waitress is young, bored and obviously laboring in a place well below her station in life. I’m sure she’s an actress yearning for the day that Lorne Michaels walks into the joint and she quickly dons a red wig and throws herself straight into Lucille Ball’s Vitameatavegamin routine.
In the meantime, she’ll bide her time by cracking gum and jokes at the same time.
“That’ll be $6.25, sir.” I used to enjoy being called a “sir” but ever since I turned 60, I resent it. I was sure she was being sarcastic. She said “sir” but she meant “old sport.”
From my money clip, I peeled off a five dollar bill. From the same pocket I fished out a loonie. Six dollars. No more. Damn! I’m twenty-five cents short. I spot a cup of pennies on the counter. “Take A Penny. Leave A Penny.” I’m thinking empty the cup, put twenty-five pennies on the bill and leave the rest as her tip.
“I thought I had enough money,” I said. “I usually only have soup.”
“Yeah, but there’s the water and cookies,” she said, holding up the bag.
“Okay, why don’t I leave the water and . . . .”
“I already rang it in,” she said, now tapping her foot to the rhythm of her snapping gum. “Maybe you want the Senior Citizens’ Discount. It’s twenty percent off.” Damn! Nailed to the wall by the invisible coupon!
Then she hit a couple buttons on the cash register and said: “That would make it $5.95. You got enough for that.” I wondered if she was being nice in offering me the discount or she just pegged me at sixty years of age.
“Yes, that discount thing will work,” I said, putting down the five and the loonie and reaching for the bag with the bottle of water and two cookies. Then she pulled the bag back, just out of my reach.
“I’ll need some ID,” she said. Oh, that was just plain nasty!
I couldn’t say I had no ID, she’d seen all my cards when I opened my money clip.
She accepted my driver’s licence and loud enough for everybody to hear, she said: “October 18, 1946.” Then she popped the till and tossed a nickel on the counter.
“Just as I thought,” she said.
“So you knew all along I was a senior citizen?”
“No, Libra,” she said. “Forgetful.”
Man, she was clever. She really was working way below her pay grade!
I grabbed my bag just as she said: “Would you like to join our Early Bird Eaters Club? They get all kinds of discounts.” That’s when I left … with the nickel!
As a Baby Boom age denier, I’d been outed by a spiked-hair, twenty-something waitress with enough rings and studs to rig up a clothesline. The real tip here: “Stay out of diners with wise-ass waitresses and tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of your strife, sorry life.”
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