While I don't usually go shopping in malls either at home or on the road, I had wandered over from my hotel in the quest to fill an hour before I had to leave for the airport. Arriving 20 minutes before the stores themselves opened, I headed to the food court to get a cup of coffee and sit for a few minutes to check messages before taking a stroll. Wanting something more substantial that what was offered at the ubiquitous Starbucks, I headed to a popular chain that had a morning menu.
In spite of the saturation marketing that seems to be everywhere, I confess to not being up to speed on all the combinations and permutations of franchise breakfast food. There are combinations, package deals and cutely named offerings that require a spreadsheet to fully understand. I mean, what's a King Croissan'wich, and how does it differ from a Sausage McGriddle? And so I stood there studying the menu for a few moments, trying to figure out what to order.
The young lady at the counter gave me a minute, then asked me what I wanted. I started with what I knew: "Bacon egg and cheese, please." She asked me how I wanted it on: on a muffin, a biscuit or a roll. I thought for a moment, and went with the muffin. Anything else she said. "Coffee, please" I said. Done and done.
As I watched her enter my order, I caught the display on the terminal out of the corner of my eye. She was fast, so fast that I almost missed the fact that two letters popped up on the screen in front of the word "coffee" before the total cost appeared. They didn't register, but I know I saw them. She stepped away to put my sandwich in a bag and pour me a cup of joe. She threw in some creamers and napkins, pointed to where the sugar was located, and took the emerging receipt from the slot and handed it to me. As I walked away, I looked at it. In front of the coffee were the letters "SR."
For the first time in my life, I had been seniored.
For the record, I am still on the low side of 60. True, what hair I do have has more than its share of gray, and my face shows a few traces of, shall we say, my years of experience. So in spite of what I like to think of as my youthful countenance, I could easily understand how the woman behind the counter looked up half an hour before anything was open to see an older man standing in front of her. He was staring at the menu wearing a wet leather coat, carrying a dripping umbrella, pondering what the "kids" are eating today. I, too, would have made the assumption that his social security check was likely in the mail.
I put my food down on an empty table (in fact, at the hour they were all empty) then circled back to the counter. No customers were there, and the young lady was in back putting something away. I waited until she came back, then approached her. I smiled: "I'm not mad, and I don't really care, but can you tell me what that means?" I said, pointing to the "SR" on the receipt. She looked at it, then me: "That's senior coffee," she said. "Well," I asked, "just how hold do you think I am?" She looked at me, and hesitated a bit, not sure what she should say. "I don't really know," she started, "but, well, it's cheaper that way." I laughed, thanked her, then headed back to my table. I guess it's begun. And while it's not like I want to belong to the club, if it saved me 50 cents, well, I guess I'm OK with that.
Marc Wollin of Bedford still thinks he's under 30. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.