Last week I heard a talk about “how not to grow old.” The speaker did a nice job of presenting a lot of the standard advice: stay active, eat well, continue to learn and keep your brain busy, enjoy the moment, and so on.
I have to admit, though, that I listened with a somewhat cynical ear. As several older members of my extended family have discovered over the past few years, some of the not-so-great aspects of aging tend to whack you upside the head regardless of your best efforts with yoga, vitamins, or positive thinking. Besides, the speaker seemed two or three decades too young to be an authority on the topic. Either that, or the advice she gave was really working well for her.
One tip she offered did catch my attention. Never ask for the senior discount, because it means you’re thinking of yourself as old.
What she didn’t say was how to respond if someone else, who apparently thinks of you as old, offers you the senior discount.
I do know one response that, based on personal experience, is probably not recommended. I was traveling with my daughter and her friend, who were both 20 at the time. We stopped at a motel in Dillon, Montana. When I raised an eyebrow at the room rate quoted by the nice young man behind the desk, he quickly added, “Of course, you might qualify for a discount. Do you belong to AAA? Or AARP?”
Shocking myself as much as I did him, I slammed my hand down on the counter. “That’s an insult! Do I look old enough to be a member of AARP?” And I went off on a rant about senior discounts, and how rude it was to assume that people qualified for them, and I’m not sure what all else. In my defense, it had been a long day of driving and I was tired. Besides, I was joking—mostly. Meanwhile, the two pretty young women with me were cracking up in a way guaranteed to embarrass any nice young man who just might have been hoping to impress them. When the poor guy gave me the final room rate, he was very careful to explain, “And this is the Triple-A discount.”
Perhaps it wasn’t one of my finer moments. Especially since nowhere in my rant did I reveal that, as a matter of fact, I was 52 and thereby officially old enough to join AARP had I cared to. If, by chance, you are reading this and you are a man in his early 30’s who worked at a motel in Dillon, Montana, 12 years ago, please consider it my public apology.
In the decade since, I’ve become a little more relaxed on the topic of senior discounts. I have even—please don’t tell anyone—occasionally gone so far as to order a meal from the senior menu. I don’t do it easily, though; there’s always an inner dialog first. It goes something like this:
Inner Voice A (the frugal one): “The senior menu is cheaper.”
Inner Voice B (the health-conscious one): “The smaller portion on the senior menu has fewer calories.”
Inner Voice C (the logical, practical one): “Why don’t they just include those smaller-portion meals on the regular menu? Lots of younger people would probably like to order them.”
Inner Voice D (the one who’s the real me): “Chronological age be damned. I am not now, I never have been, and I never, ever, ever will be old enough to order off the senior menu.”
Most of the time, I end up listening to Inner Voice D. But at least I don’t let her slam her hand on the table and shout at the waitress.