“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.” – Lucille Ball
Do you qualify for the wisdom discount?”
Oh, I get it. My charming cashier was merely adding a new twist to that occasional supermarket discount for those of us on the downward side of the proverbial hill. I don’t know about the wisdom part, but I was even more surprised that he had to ask. I’ve qualified for this little nicety for so long almost no one asks the question anymore.
“Well,” he added, “My mother raised me not to assume anything, especially a woman’s age.” Nice mother. Nice son.
Now that my personal odometer has rolled over another year, I’m reeling from another surprise. For years now I’ve been regaled with ads and countless “special” offers for the presumed aged and infirm, among them hearing aids, back-pain remedies and everything imaginable in large print, including calculators with numbers as large as my thumb. But this year it’s something else.
I can understand the age part. What with insurance companies, Social Security and who know what else, the database for any age group today is limitless.
But, all of a sudden, a growing number of marketers also know the month I was born. Since August is my month, you should see all the greetings I’m getting by mail, e-mail and phone. For instance:
From a catalog I might have ordered from two or three times in the past five years: “Enjoy free shipping during your entire birthday month.” From another, besides a colorful, candle-laden cake and the “Happy Birthday” caption, more free shipping “to celebrate your special moments.” Two local outlets were even more enticing. Since I can drive there and shipping is not required, they will give me $10 off “anything in the store, no strings attached.” (I suspect I will take advantage of these two.)
Now comes a mailbox entry with “Happy Birthday Barbara” stamped in red on the outside. I’m excited. Maybe it’s someone I know. Fat chance. The message inside a cleverly disguised envelope was just another invitation to join AARP!
I tossed that one in the recycle bin. All that “access” to discounts is readily available without the annual membership fee or the “representation in Washington and all 50 states” for issues that may not correspond to my political or philosophical views.
Now the phone rings and I anticipate an authentic personal message, birthday or otherwise. Alas, the high-decibel recorded message spewed by a young woman intent on saving my life begins: “Because you are in the age of Medicare, Medicaid and – I didn’t catch all the rest – you are eligible to receive a FREE (there’s always a miniscule “free” plus an always larger portion that’s NOT free) Burglar Alarm System which may save you from an attack preyed upon so many senior citizens today.”
Miss Cheerleader continued the pressure, begging me to take advantage of her kindness before some awful calamity happens. I smiled as I hung up the phone, gently this time lest the voice really be a live person and I injure an eardrum.
Even as the odometer turns over with increasing speed, even if no one offers me a discount, wisdom or otherwise, I celebrate each birthday. After all, as an authentically wise person once said, “It sure beats the alternative.”
Blessed with family, health and meaningful ways to spend my days, I bow in gratitude to God for each new day and year. Perhaps it’s with a little bit of wisdom that I now understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am come that (you) might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer and the author of As Long As the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County’s Past. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)