Frying Fish: A Metaphor
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Frying Fish: A Metaphor

Chana Shapiro discusses some recent encounters that touched on aging.

I used to shop at a certain store on a regular basis, especially on Senior Adult Discount Days. Every visit, even though the cashiers surely knew I’d been receiving the AARP magazine for years, I was always asked to show some ID. I appreciated the charade.

Last week I went back to this shop to use their senior discount coupon I got in the mail, and I had a lot of shopping success. I knew the drill, and I took out my ID, so that the new cashier would apply my discount.

I come from a long line of rule-followers, so I asked, “Do you want to see my driver’s license?”

“Oh, that’s OK,” she smiled, “I can tell you’re a senior.”

On the way out, I checked my appearance in a mirror. I tried hard to remember where I had put an article I recently read explaining how a mere five minutes a day of specific facial exercises are guaranteed to smooth wrinkles, tighten droopy eyelids, and iron out flaccid necks. Unfortunately, now that my memory neurons were on steady overload remembering how to deal with my cell phone apps, it was unlikely that I’d have enough left to locate that article. I walked away from the mirror feeling temporarily down, but not out. I had bigger fish to fry, as they (whoever they are) like to say.

I planned to take advantage of a free oil change for new customers of a nearby service station, and today was the last day. But before that, I had to drop something off at the house of a friend’s granddaughter.

This gal, Mona, is in her 20s. I’m possibly older than (and definitely have inferior upper arms to) her grandmother. A clue that Mona considers me to be her ultra-mega-extreme elder is that she’s annoyingly solicitous, tries to get me to talk about “the old days,” and speaks either too fast or too slow, however with both modes at the volume and tempo geared toward her grandmother’s demographic, whether we need it or not.

We had a slow, loud chat, but the above-mentioned fish had yet to be fried. I headed out. “Careful!” Mona cautioned, reaching protectively toward me. I gave her one of my standard looks, meaning — in a nutshell – “I know you want to help me, and you’re a nice kid, but I can still handle two steps with a handrail on both sides.” She watched as I backed out of her driveway. In order to prevent undue stress on this caring youngster, I made sure she saw me check all three rearview mirrors as I backed away. Young people already have plenty to worry about.

When I finally made it to the service station for the free oil change, I was told that they were as sorry as could be, but there was no way in the world they could fit me in. I took a minute to decide if looking desperate and shedding tears would convince them to stay late to give me the freebie while the offer was still valid, but I hate to play that power card frivolously. What else did I have in my arsenal?

Oh, yes, there was another available ploy. It was not only demeaning and went against the very fiber of my being, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

Ironically, my earlier mirror-confirmed physiognomy could now be used to my advantage! I strategically tilted my head, allowing the bags under my eyes to catch the light perfectly. “A free oil change really helps at my stage of life,” I sighed. “Isn’t there something you can do for me, a senior citizen who braved dangerous traffic to get here on time?”

The two men sitting at the desk fiddled around with their computers, then one of them said (slowly and loudly), “We can treat this as a special case. We’re especially supportive of our mature customers. Can you come back next Tuesday?”

The negotiations were going well, and I wanted to close the deal fast. “9:30?” I asked, gratefully.

“Fine,” the other fellow said. He added a note to my certificate and signed his name. They helped a senior citizen, and my fish got fried.

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