When I turned fifty-five I wasn’t altogether happy about it. But I did feel happy about getting senior discounts. They sweetened my outlook on joining the ranks of the senior demographic. A few years later it got even better. Denny’s rolled out their “55+ menu,” at the back of the main menu. It had fixed discounted prices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It was a huge improvement over its long-time practice of taking ten percent off regular menu items. Especially since the ten percent only applied to dinner; breakfast and lunch were full price, no matter how ancient you were. And to get the discount we old-timers had to eat at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon! That is just too darned early to eat dinner, in my book. I always got hungry again later and had to eat another dinner. Eating two dinners is not good for the waistline, or the wallet. It nullified the ten percent discount.
Now, with their cool new 55+ menu that’s valid anytime, I don’t turn into a pumpkin at 5:00 anymore. I can eat dinner, or lunch or breakfast for that matter, whenever I darn well please, at midnight or three in the morning if I like. And I still get that tasty reduced price. And since I don’t have to eat dinner twice, I can save up the money I used to spend on my second meal for something fun—like Zumba shoes or kayaking lessons. I may be a senior but I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet.
I’m in the minority of readers who don’t buy most of their books from Amazon. Amazon is my last resort. I have a few excuses for this. My husband won’t replace our ancient, tiny mailbox that is not a locking one, and is too small for books anyway. And packages are not safe on our porch. A large tropical plant used to conceal them from passersby, but it died in California’s drought and now everything is plainly visible.
And now for the plain honest truth. I enjoy driving to brick-and-mortar bookstores. There are some small, charming local bookstores near me but I prefer Barnes and Noble. The closest B&N is a 25-mile drive that I love, along rolling hills with horses and cows grazing and beautiful homes. Inside B&N I have real-time conversations. One day I spoke on the phone with a young woman, Sarah, who helpfully located some books and put them on hold for me. I went to get them the next day and she helped me in person. It was nice to have a friendly real-time chat with this charming young woman. You don’t talk to anyone at Amazon. Do real people work there? It’s scary.
Here’s another plain honest truth. The real reason I prefer B&N to Amazon and charming little bookstores is that B&N has food and drink. I love to peruse my purchases over a doppio espresso and a sea-salted chocolate caramel, which I daren’t keep at home. I love chocolate and caffeine as I love books. I’m a plump, chocolate- and caffeine-craving, conversation-seeking older woman. Amazon is not for the likes of me.
Recently I had an impulse to go into Victoria’s Secret. I’d never been inside one of their stores, and I’m almost 70. I’m pretty straight-laced. But a friend told me that they actually measure you and find your perfect bra size. It suddenly sounded lovely to one used to self-serve shelves full of bras in boxes. Like a largish fish out of water in the midst of all that sexy naughtiness, I stood while the bra specialist measured my band size, at 42 inches.
Alas, the specialist told me the largest Victoria’s carries is 38 inches. I was disqualified from Victoria’s Secret! Disgraced! Humiliated! Once slender and firm, as I age I’m expanding in girth, including my back and shoulders. If I choose my right cup size, the band size is too tight. I can’t breathe, and get cloth cuts and rashes under my breasts. After being rejected I cheered myself up at the Starbucks right next store, with a white chocolate mint half-milk and half half-and-half latte and a caramel cake pop. “Now what,” I brooded, the caramel frosting melting sexily in my mouth. When I was done I went to the lingerie department at Sears, where I told a saleswoman my story. She asked if I had a bra extender and I said “a what?” I’d never heard of them. It’s a rectangular piece of cloth with hooks and eyes that attaches to your bra and makes the band longer.
I tried one…and everything’s going to be okay. So what if I never wear a Victoria’s Secret bra. I found something better, a bra extender. No more rashes! I can breathe! Life goes on, with more oxygen.
There is a Meyer lemon tree in our front yard. If you’re a lemon fan, you probably know that Meyers are highly valued because they are sweet, thin-skinned and fragrant. The tree is loaded with lemons almost year-round, and neighbors covet them. My neighborhood has grown to be a very international place in the last 20 years. People living around me come from India, Iraq, the Philippines, Singapore, China, Eritrea, Japan…all over the world. They knock on our door and ask if they can pick lemons, and I never refuse. I give them a plastic bag, and carte blanche to pick as many as they want.
“Come anytime,” I tell them. “You don’t even have to ask. And don’t worry if we’re not home, go ahead and pick.” There are just so many lemons. The tree, 30 years old and absolutely huge, is loaded with them. And I am handsomely rewarded for my generosity. The Iraqi family on one side of us picks many lemons. They also have many parties, with lots of delicious, exotic Middle Eastern food flavored with an array of exquisite spices and herbs, and of course our lemons. They bring over large plates heavily laden with delicacies. A woman across the street, from India, also picks lemons often and always brings over a big bowl of the delicious lemon-flavored rice she makes. Other lemon-picking neighbors bring us food from diverse cultures.
My only complaint is that no one makes lemon meringue pie. I keep hoping.
I’m no stranger to addiction. Over the years I’ve struggled, and overcome, dependence on alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, even sugar, and more. After all those victories, to my dismay I’ve lately acquired a new addiction, one that feels especially shameful and that I am very reluctant to reveal.
I’m going to talk about it anyway, though, because no one knows better than I that keeping addictions secret feeds them. They thrive in darkness and silence. So here goes. It’s Wheel of Fortune. My husband Frank and I are addicted to America’s most popular game show. Every night except Sunday finds us in front of the TV at 7:30, watching Wheel while we eat. (We’d be there on Sundays too except that it’s not on.) If I solve a word puzzle, I jump up from the table to run around the living room, fist pumping, screaming out the solution. “We’re calling it a day!” I shout, or “Think outside the box of chocolates!” Or Frank and I will express amazement when a contestant solves a puzzle with a mere three letters showing out of a total of 50. Wheel word-puzzle savants are so exciting!
We don’t answer the phone during the program, and if I call someone back later I lie that I couldn’t pull myself away from Nature or The Civil War or some other thought-provoking, worthwhile program on PBS. Hooked on this game show—me of all people, reader of Pulitzer Prize winning fiction, watcher of Masterpiece Theatre. But I’m an addict. It’s beyond my control. I can’t stop myself. I managed to overcome alcohol – but when it comes to Wheel of Fortune: I _m p_werl_ss.