“Are you at least 55?” she automated.
“What?” I think, I stutter. Maybe it was out loud, I don’t know. I have never been asked if I’m in my fifties. Until just a few years ago I was asked for my identification to enter bars. I am 42-years-old. Before I allow myself to be offended, I allow my senses to register the flat tone with which she delivered the offending question, the blank stare. The setting, The Dollar Store. We are buying a $1 dollar toy, my 7-year-old son and I.
“What?” I implore, my senses stunned, now recovering. I focus my gaze on her face, searching. Is it an automatic question at the Yankee Dollar Store? Do I appear older than I am? For a second I realize she looks older than she should for a young girl, the years of a hard life reveal her future. I am detective, seeking information, some bit of rational thought to lessen the blow of this devastating question.
“Are you at least 55 years old?” she repeats. My pride hastily answers for me, “No.” With that information she is able to proceed and turn her attention back to the mechanics of completing the sale. I would say she turned her eyes away from me, but it would be more apt to say they just fell away, eased back into their listless stare.
“Wait,” I command. “Is that for a discount?”
She glances in my direction, a barely perceptible confirmation that yes, she is offering me a senior discount, and I can see I’ve caused her great discomfort to look back at me. She was thinking about her own life troubles, her job at Yankee Dollar, how many minutes until her next cigarette break. She does not perceive me or my youthful vigor, she is unseeing.
“I should have said I am…at least 55-years-old,” I offer, cheerfully. The confusion on her face tells me this is not a joke she gets. There is a half-question on her face, the semblance of confusion in her now inwardly turned eyes. It does not take much to make a turtle hide in its shell. I release her from this state by explaining I need to shop with an older friend to get the discount. I crack a smile, she completes the sale.
I realize I would have just sold my pride for a discount on a dollar item. Oh well, next time.