I know I’m getting on in years…you just don’t have to remind me. Society tells us that we are growing older more graciously.
Yet those of us who are over 60 years old are bombarded by the inescapable truth that life is significantly more than half-over, and that now is time to start planning…BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.
By 60, the appellation “senior” has become an indelible badge, so tell me that youth is a function of attitude. One’s senior years can, with deference to Robert Browning, be “the last of life for which the first was made.”
Many folks with 20, even 30, years seniority on me live vibrantly, productively; G-d knows the social resources are there to do it. So call it my problem: Despite any number of physical infirmities, I am simply not ready to be called a senior yet, not so soon.
My prime seems to have flashed by in a wink, and rather than philosophically acquiesce, I am hanging on for dear life.
The one glitch: What to do about the ever-present and ever-welcome senior discount?
I, like you, am most regularly confronted by my “senior-dom” in the checkout line. I do not resist the idea of receiving a “senior discount” at the cash register, but I chafe when the clerk simply assumes that I am a senior and credits my tab accordingly.
Occasionally, I will ask if I really look like I’m 60. The most tactful among them will answer that they are giving me the benefit of the doubt; the majority of them give you that “nobody’s home” look that has “a-duh” written all over it.
Nope, I won’t forego my five-percent discount, but I’d appreciate a more subtle, discreet way to break it to me that I have crossed the threshold to old age. How about “maturity discount,” or “hard-knocks discount”?
I also won’t balk at taking advantage of the considerable pre-six o’clock senior discount at the movies. Regardless, they still cost way too much, and what is the subtle message about grouping us with children in the sign about the reduced rate for tickets?
I tell you, when I was a kid, a quarter got you into the Northtown theater for an entire Saturday-afternoon of entertainment – two sci-fi flicks, a Little Rascal’s short, a pair of Roadrunner cartoons, and Mister McGoo!
(Okay, okay, so I am showing my age.)
And then there’s the early-bird discount at restaurants. It announces to the world that those of us over 60 would be best to eat our dinner before nightfall to, firstly, avoid driving after dark; secondly, digest our dinner before the onset of bedtime heartburn; and finally, catch “Wheel of Fortune” at 7 p.m.
So here I am, in the classical ambivalent position, grateful to reap every possible benefit from the so-called “senior” discount, just not so crazy about carrying the baggage that goes along with it. How would it hurt, as I say, to call it a “maturity” discount, so that cranks like me can split the imaginary hair between being vitally mature and over-the-hill senior?
I probably would not have been moved to write any of this had it not been for a recent episode in the Greenville airport: I was being transported to the elevator in a wheelchair, having a few weeks earlier fractured four vertebrae, now ready to board our flight.
The scene was sufficiently pathetic, when just to make sure, the desk clerk announced over her walkie-talkie to her downstairs counterpart, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Be ready by the elevator. I’m sending down an OLD couple to you!”
I may be a senior, and in someone’s mind I might even be old; it’s just that I don’t plan to answer to either of them for the foreseeable future.
So rev up my walker, Honey; we can still catch the early show. Better still, let’s head over to Publix: It’s Wednesday, and we’ll get our…er…maturity discount.
After all, every rule has its exceptions.
By Rabbi Marc Wilson
Editor’s note: Marc Howard Wilson is a rabbi and writer in Greenville, S.C