I ran into some friends outside a movie theatre a few months ago, and decided to go in with them to see “Dixie Chicks.” They had already bought tickets, and as I got in line at the box office, one of them—let’s call him Kenny—started hissing at me, “Get a senior, get a senior.” Who, me? Pass for sixty-two? I still get carded when I buy liquor. (That’s a lie.)
Twice now I have been taken for a senior. The first time was at the movies one afternoon, and I decided it was (one) because it was the afternoon, and what was I doing at the movies in the middle of the day unless I was retired? And (two) because I was on my way home from the doctor’s and I was carrying an X-ray of my spine in a huge plastic shopping bag labelled “East River Medical Imaging.” (The doctor’s office made me take the X-ray; they didn’t want it. I didn’t want it either, but just to leave an X-ray of your backbone in a litter box on the street didn’t seem right.) So here I am at the movies, deeply offended, trying to keep a grip on my spinal X-ray while negotiating the purchase of a large popcorn (no butter) through gritted teeth.
The other time I was in my car, buying a round-trip ticket for a ferry crossing. “Just you and the car?” the girl said. I looked around and didn’t notice any passengers, so I said yes. “You a senior?” What? Did she mean a senior in high school? Or possibly in college? No-oh, I said. She shrugged and charged me thirty-two dollars. Much later it occurred to me that maybe she was just trying to save me a few bucks, but still ... I was deeply offended.
That night, at Kenny’s insistence, I bought a senior ticket, for seven dollars, and had money left over for Raisinets. It felt pretty good. As Kenny explained, “They’ve got kids working in the box office. Those kids don’t know. You could be anywhere between thirty and seventy, and they wouldn’t know the difference.” He has a point. Hardly anyone spends a whole career at the Loew’s box office, learning how to size up patrons. It’s probably not even part of their training. And even if one of them did look up and think, “She don’t look like no senior,” isn’t that a better problem than being taken for a senior when you’re not? Why not preempt them by a few (dozen) years?
Kenny’s wife, we’ll call her Joanne, said that sometimes he rumples his hair a little so he’ll look craggy and older. (“As if,” she adds, lovingly.) When I recently went to the movies with G., the glamorous diva who helped me pick out my new winter coat, I thought she’d be delighted with the scam, as she is extremely reluctant to plunk down ten dollars and fifty cents, of the last five hundred euro she has to her name, in order to see a movie. “But I don’t have my I.D.,” she yelped, her eyes bugging out behind her gigantic tortoiseshell glasses.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. Nobody was going to ask us for an I.D., and if they did, so what? You say you don’t have one and add incredulously, “Would I lie about my age in reverse?”
G. hung back at the box office as I bought the tickets. I could see the ingénue and the miser warring it out on her face. But after the movie she had three dollars left to buy a beer at the bar down the street. She chuckled, fondly reliving the scene at the box office: “You’re buying senior tickets and here I am in these glamorous eyeglasses …” She really felt she had gotten away with something.
So this is the scam: the baby boomers get revenge at the cineplex. If we’re going to be written off as geezers anyway, why not get in cheap? When I've revealed this scam to friends, I’ve had them say, “But I don’t think you look like a senior.” I should hope not! Really, that’s not the point. The point is: how old is the kid in the box office?
“Dixie Chicks” sucked, by the way, and though I agree with her politics, that girl has a big mouth. G. and I saw “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and I liked it, although I recommend sitting behind a tall guy so that you can line up his head with the middle of the screen during the scenes of violence and torture. I don’t remember what I saw the day I was carrying my back X-rays ... probably some lame comedy.
The reason this age scam is on my mind, and the reason I’m writing today even though I don’t have to go out and sit in the car, or even stay inside and think about sitting in the car, is that it’s my birthday, my double-nickels birthday. Happy Birthday to me. Popcorn and Raisinets forever!