January 20, 2012 by Alison Grisham
“She was just trying to help.”
I’m sure that’s what most people will say. But if you had been the one on the other
side of the counter, you may not have felt that way.
It was a simple transaction. I was trying to buy a couple of pillow inserts at a local fabric store. No big deal. But I hate when I forget to print a coupon. It’s just maddening because fabric stores typically honor com- petitor coupons, which means you can pret- ty much get 50 percent off any one item, on any given day, even if the store you’re shop- ping in isn’t running that special. It takes so little effort, yet, it’s so gratifying to walk out knowing you saved a buck — or in this case a sawbuck, which is almost enough for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
So I started skimming through the store flyer hopefully. Notions. Fabric. Scissors. “Nope,” I said to no one in particular, “no pillows,” and I walked the last few steps to the register. The saleswoman, perhaps thinking I was speaking to her, offered her best
“Are you old enough for the Senior Citizen discount?” she asked.
Let me give you a moment for a long pause here. Tick. Tick. Tick.
No, that’s not a clock sound effect provid- ed for your pause. That’s the sound of the bomb that exploded inside my head, mo- ments after hearing the question. Caught in
the blast were my ego, dignity and my last shred of vanity. If you’re imagining me star- ing at the saleswoman, with wide disbeliev- ing eyes, soot on my face, and smoke coming out of my hair — like a bested cartoon character — well you’ve got the picture.
“Ha ha,” I choked. “Well I’m 45, so I don’t think so.” But her question must have been rhetorical. Before I finished answer- ing, she had already clicked in the appropriate key sequence, giving me 15 percent off for the elderly. “You saved $5.73,” she said, with no sense of irony.
I couldn’t really answer. I just stood there stunned, with my Senior Citizen discount and a small handful of change, wondering if perhaps I had unwittingly killed this wom- an’s cat or been mean to her child. Why else would anyone risk saying such a thing, to me, a person who still (perhaps inappropriately) wears converse tennis shoes and pig- tails in her hair?
The thoughts crashed through my brain like a tsunami. How could she possibly think I was a senior citizen? I still feel like a senior in college. I’ve been told I look 35. Maybe I will kill her cat. Or be mean to her child.
Honestly, I think I would’ve been less deflated had she asked if I was fat enough for the pregnancy discount. I mean, a girl can lose weight (she can’t) and un-age. All I wanted to do was hand the money back. But then I realized that I needed the cash more than my dignity. Of course, thinking that way is a slippery slope. I’m pretty sure that’s what most prostitutes say before they hit the streets.
All I know for sure is that I’m going back to shopping on line, where, let’s face it, even a two-ton, 70-year old man-troll can pretend to be an adorable 25-year-old girl, and no one asks any questions.
Copyright 2011 by Alison Grisham. All rights reserved.