Senior Discount Trauma

All of a sudden I felt ancient.

Believe it or not, I remember the exact day I got my first senior discount. I remember it because it was a total bummer. I wasn’t a senior yet. 

I suck at math, but when the young man at the register in Michael’s gave me my change I knew something wasn’t right. I had bought items totaling around $35.00 dollars, and gave him $40.00, and got over $10.00 back.

“I shouldn’t be getting this much money back,” I told him, confused. He looked at me blankly. I studied the receipt. 

“What’s this?” I asked him, showing him a credit.

“That’s your senior discount,” he mumbled.

I went into shock. I was fifty-two. In my prime. I hadn’t yet even remotely thought of myself as being old.

“Senior discount?!” I croaked ungracefully. “I’m not fifty-five! Why are you giving me a senior discount!?”

He just stared at me. He was tongue-tied. Then I realized he was scared, and I calmed down and smiled at him. “Well, never mind, young man. I can use the extra money. Thank you, dear.” I forgave him. He didn’t do it on purpose. 

When I got home I felt better after realizing that surely my white hair had caused him to misjudge my age. It must have been that, because certainly everything else about me was youthful. My smooth skin, clear eyes, athletic body…I could go on but don’t worry, I won’t. But the thing is I’m a towhead, of Scandinavian descent, born with white hair. Just like Tiger Woods’s former wife, Elin. And Greta Garbo, au naturel.

Funny how the years change us. Now, 20 years later, I LOVE my senior discounts. I get upset when they don’t give them to me. Bring ‘em on!

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Terror in the Dressing Room

frog-pond-841839_640About ten years ago I had a frightening incident while trying on clothes at Macy’s. I went to buy myself some new clothes for Christmas. In those days no one bought clothes online. There were catalogs, but I preferred to go to brick-and-mortar shops, choose whatever caught my eye from the racks, and try things on. One of the items I tried on that day was an attractive lavender turtleneck sweater I found on the sale rack.

When I looked at myself in the dressing room mirror after I got the sweater on, I almost screamed. I managed, just barely, to stifle it. I was horrified to see that the sweater had pushed up the loose flesh of my neck to form a spare tire bulging between the top of the high, snug-fitting collar and my chin. I looked like a puffed-up bullfrog. A bullfrog sending out a mating call.

“How are you doing in there?” the sales woman asked sweetly from outside the dressing room door, a tinge of concern in her voice.

“Fine,” I lied. Apparently I had not managed to stifle the entire scream. Some squeaked out for the sales woman to hear. Or riveted out, more accurately. Well, I thought, what would that sweet, firm young thing know about how frightening a spare tire made of neck flesh can be? She was twenty-something, I was sixty.

How had this state of affairs, of my neck I should say, escaped me for so long? I had no idea it was that saggy. It was a huge shock to me, but such a condition can’t have blown up overnight. I had developed turkey neck, a condition many of us senior women get unless we have cosmetic surgery, only instead of sagging it was being pushed up by a turtleneck collar. I realized with dismay that I had a couple of turtleneck sweaters at home. I hoped I hadn’t been going around looking like I did in the mirror. I hadn’t been paying attention. Hopefully their necklines weren’t as snug as the one I was trying on.

It was an afternoon of brutal Truth. I realized my neck was just one of many conditions of aging creeping up on me. Galloping up. Bags were starting to form under my eyes, I had gained a bit of weight, I had a few liver spots, and skin damage from the vain, reckless sunbathing of my youth. A basal cell carcinoma, above my right eye, was successfully removed but the surgery had left a crater. Deep vertical creases had sprouted at the sides of my mouth and I looked sort of like a puppet.  Turkey neck, temporarily transformed into bullfrog neck, is just one of the many dents and scratches resulting over time from that big messy collision called life. Today I cheerfully accept them, as well as the fact that there will be more as time goes on. After all, consider the alternative (and I’m not talking about cosmetic surgery). I’ll gladly take my dents and scratches over that any day.

Miracle at the Car Wash

One busy morning I stopped between errands to get my car washed. I told the young man at check-in that I wanted a hand wash and hand wax but needed to be out of there by 10:30 latest. I had to be at the dentist by 11:00. I was pushing it—it was 9:45, but he assured me my car would be ready so I paid and went to the waiting room.

At 10:30 I looked out into the pickup area. My car wasn’t there. I walked back to the kiosk and asked the young man about it, who called the manager on a walkie-talkie. “Where’s the white car with the hand wash and wax? We told her 10:30,” he said. A raspy, insolent voice asked, “You mean that old lady?” I was stunned. The young man, embarrassed, knew I’d heard. I’m 70, but I consider myself to be holding up pretty well. I had never been called old lady, and certainly never so derisively. I felt deflated. Ancient. I was swept up in the insanity of vanity . They brought out my car and I left, but my day was ruined. For the next few days, old lady kept ringing in my head.  

I never went back there. When my car became unacceptably dirty, I googled and found a hand car wash that was much closer to my house. Happily, it turned out to have much more to recommend it. When I paid at the kiosk and went into the waiting room, I found myself entering a place of beauty and peace. Silence reigned; it was a true hand-wash operation, with absolutely no automated equipment. A cool gurgling stream curved across the stone floor. In it, lovely orange carp silently glided. Lining the stream were small red tables, the kind found in nightclubs, where customers sat in the stillness, broken only by the whispering of the stream and soft talking on cell phones. Two turtles rested together in lush foliage on the stream bank. Several well cared for cockatiels chattered in the other room. The gourmet coffee was delicious.

My car is much cleaner now because the car wash is such a pleasant place that I go every chance I get. That insolent, bad-mannered manager is a faded memory. In fact I now think of him as my angel in disguise. He guided me to Car Wash Paradise, and I silently express gratitude. Thanks, you old geezer.