Is that the senior discount for you, today?

I know I should not let this bother me, but I keep going back to it in my mind.

I was at the Trader Joe’s in Stockton for a couple of items this weekend and, after gathering those items, made my way to the checkout where the clerk called me “young man” three times during the course of our relationship. My definition of “relationship” in this case is the period from the moment I placed my basket on the shelf at the checkout stand to the point I grabbed my receipt and ran screaming from the store.

Firstly, I am not a “young man.” My graying beard is a clue on that. But most certainly I am not an OLD man, either. Secondly, the phrase “young man” is usually used when speaking to males who are obviously young men. Or used when speaking to obviously older men when someone – say a checkout clerk – wants to flatter them and put them in a good mood. After all, we do not want any trouble in the checkout line, do we.

The thing is – besides the fact that I am not “young,” nor am I “old” – the clerk was perhaps within five years of my age, so she should have recognized that I was neither a young “young man” nor an old “young man.” Really, the difference makes sense to me in my head.

I suppose I should not take it too seriously. I am sure she was just trying to do her job and make me feel more comfortable, more at ease, flattered. But I do not need anyone – most certainly not a complete stranger I may never see or speak with ever again in my life – pointing out to me anything that has to do with age or any other personal information not needed for the transaction at hand. I know how old I am. And people who need to know how old I am know how old I am. But the clerk at my grocery store does not have to make any – none, nuda – comment about my age whatsoever.

Seriously, I am not the type of person who minds how old he is – I was born June, 21, 1962, in Fort Kent, Maine, so you do the math – and I even mentioned in an earlier blog entry that a few gray hairs have sprouted. But that is me. It is not the same when someone – especially someone I do not know – implies that I am older than I am. And I suppose that is what I took her “young man” comment to imply.

Granted, since my most recent birthday I have noticed that I need to bring tiny print in much closer in order to read it clearly. Or hold it at arm’s length. I am sure there is a scientific, medical reason for that, but it is still a bit irritating. But I am not at all ready to join AARP. I am not at all ready to be fitted for a truce or walker. I am not at all ready to have all my food come to me in creamed form … unless it is supposed to be creamed, that is.

It is funny, a former colleague not long ago learned how old I was and was surprised. She is five years younger and thought I was her age. She said that I had “aged well.” She is a bit of a flirt, so it is not surprising that she would say something complementary. But it did make me feel good.

Then there was an incident years ago when my friend Rick and I were at a Carson City, Nev., casino and had just finished lunch at the casino diner. The hostess must have been in her 70s, perhaps in her 80s. Each of us were perhaps the age of her children. She did not look up at us, but asked, “Senior discount?”

Rick and I, both in our very early 40s at the time, looked at each other, shrugged and said, “Uh …”

After all, what do you say when someone asks you if you want the senior discount when you are in your early 40s.

She then looked up and realized that we did not quite qualify for the senior discount – yet.

We paid our tab and walked away, shaking our heads and muttering to ourselves, “Senior discount? … Senior discount?!”

To this day, if one of us is squinting a bit to read small print or having a more difficult time than normal moving around, one of us just might comment that the other needs a “senior discount.” But we have been buddies for about 20 years so we can say that to each other.

I do not desire or am I eligible for a senior discount and I do not wish to be called “young man” when I am clearly NOT a young man, but also not an old man. There is nothing wrong with that. … I sure could use a nap just about now.

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