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Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 14, 1999


  Wash. Post


  Opinions Letters to the Editor Editorials Columns

Get High on Life

LEE DRESSELHAUS / L’Observateur / July 14, 1999

So….a friend recently suffered a traumatic experience. He was in line at afast food restaurant – although, with as long as it takes those highly skilled and well trained people to get your lukewarm burger from under a heat lamp, throw it into a bag, and overcharge you for it, I just don’t know why it’s still called ‘fast food’. They manage to take the ‘fast’ right outof ‘fast food’. And that’s apart from the fact that whether it’s even reallyfood or not is often suspect. Anyway, when he finally got his wilted friesand soggy burger the adolescent behind the counter looked at him with a keen eye and, in one short sentence, ruined his day.

“Would you like the senior citizen discount, sir?” she squeaked.

My friend, who is my age, thank you, was mortified. Senior citizendiscount? He told me that he was too stunned to react other than to mumble a quick no thank you and take his tottering self out the door, his bag of grease clutched pathetically to his chest.

When he relayed this story to me I was naturally at my sympathetic finest and between laughing and pointing at him I told him not to take it too seriously. After all, the girl behind the counter was probably all ofsixteen, and to her anyone over twenty-five is ready for the boneyard. Ihad a great time abusing him about this. Hey, what are friends for? It wasa hoot.

Then it happened to me.

Yep. A week later another friend and I went to one of the places that has abreakfast bar so that I could get my daily overdose of fat, cholesterol, and various other dyes and preservatives for just $5.99. We were escorted to atable by a congenial hostess and our waitress, a 20-something girl, greeted us in a friendly way, then ruined my initial impression of her with one simple sentence.

“Are either of you guys over 55 or a member of AARP? We have the senior citizen discount!” she chirped.

WHAT? ME? How could she possibly ask that of ME? I mean, I know I’m no spring chicken but I don’t look like I could be mistaken for someone with an AARP card, plaid pants with white shoes and matching belt, and one of those little goofy golf hats. Do I? Not that there’s anything wrong withany of that. I hope I live long enough to do all that and not really care whatanyone else thinks, but I’m not ready for it just yet.

Took the humor right out of the situation, let me tell you.

I spent the rest of the day pouting. I had long since come to grips withsome of the factors involved in aging, like hair that’s as thin as Bill Clinton’s stance on family values, and a waist line that just refuses to cooperate with my youthful vision of myself, but I just wasn’t ready for the realization that very young people see folks of my age as…..old. There. Isaid it. The “O” word. Old. Yuck. Well, I decided, I’m not ready to playcheckers at The Home with the boys just yet. I’ll show ’em. I’ll work out.Yeah! That’s it! I’ll work out. I’ll lose the extra pounds that have somehowmanaged to attach themselves to what used to be my waist. Know what?That’s not as easy as it used to be, either.

For one thing, I have discovered that I have parts that hurt more than they used to, especially after a reasonably difficult day at the gym. If I happento jog, my feet let me know all about their discontent with my sudden desire to preserve myself when I get out of bed the next day. Those firstfew steps are a killer. And, to clarify something, what I do is jog, not run.There’s a difference. I used to run. That hurts too much now, so I jog,which is slower. Much slower. In fact, what I do even looks like the wordjog.

I had heard about the step aerobics thing and other various forms of bouncing about until you wish you were dead, so I decided to check those out, too. Have you ever watched those women in those classes? They areamazing. There is no way I can possibly keep up with them and I reallydon’t feel like making a complete idiot of myself by being the only one in the class who carries his own oxygen supply and requires emergency medical care on a regular basis, so I do what any other self respecting male does when faced with this type of situation.

I go to the weight room and lift something entirely too heavy for most of those women to lift. It makes me feel better about the whole thingsomehow.

Well, we might as well face it, folks. There is no fountain of youth. It’sgonna happen, and it’s gonna happen to all of us. Yeah, you too. And we havechoices. We can always choose to age gracefully.Me? I’m going down kicking and screaming. I’ll worry about dignity later.

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