Column: Adult price or senior discount? You pick

By SCOTT SAALMAN

It took four decades’ worth of concertgoing before it finally happened: I caught my first guitar pick.
Rock ’n’ roll god Steve Miller tossed it from stage after his signature song, “The Joker.” You know: “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker...”

It helped that I was in the front row, which is where you want to be when a performer pitches a pick. Those flimsy, plastic triangles don’t fly very far.

I can think of no one more deserving than me to catch the pick. The Steve Miller Band was my first favorite band in the ’70s. When I snagged the pick I couldn’t help but believe Steve and I, momentarily at least, were best friends. It was a cosmic connection, 40 years in the making, with the “Space Cowboy.”

Several days after the concert, I was still bragging about the magical moment with my co-workers and friends, how the white pick fluttered like a slow-motion moth toward my outstretched hands, how its trajectory ended with a soft landing in my upturned palm, how the 10-cent piece of plastic made the $70 concert ticket worth the investment, how I had dreamed of such a moment since attending my first concert at 18, how —

“My god, Scott,” a friend interrupted during my last play-by-play retelling, “what are you, 17 years old?”

That’s the whole point of the pick!

Because of the power of the pick, I did feel 17 again, for a few days at least, until I was humbled at the cinema after requesting a ticket for “The Butler.” The girl behind the counter (who looked 17) asked — yes, she asked, I kid you not, she asked — “Do you want an adult ticket or a senior ticket?”

By senior, she didn’t mean high school senior.

I turned my head to see whom she was talking to. There was no one else in line.

“Are you kidding me?” I replied.

It must’ have been the ear hairs I forgot to trim.

“Jeez. I’m only 48,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

I didn’t know if she meant she was sorry that she made a mistake, or she felt sorry for me for being 48.

It was shocking to hear this question directed at me for the first time.

I spoke to the nearby manager. “Did you hear what she asked? She asked if I needed the senior discount.”

The manager merely shrugged, which had the same nonchalant effect as Tony Soprano looking at you and saying, “Whaddya gonna do?”

“Fire her?” I suggested.

Granted, the cashier might not have meant I looked 65, the doorstep to senior citizenry, but she obviously thought I looked 55, old enough to be eligible for a senior discount.

True, she was only 17 — as I once was, daydreaming in math class about catching Steve Miller’s guitar pick. I remember how old 48 seemed when I was 17, which explains why she looked at me like I was one of those old people in grocery store produce sections who openly pull grapes from the stems and chew them without even paying, as if they are actually walking through their own personal vineyard in Napa Valley. Is this an AARP perk? I haven’t seen anyone do this to a banana.

While I haven’t pilfered any grapes yet, there have been some signs of my impending senior status:

Several times lately I have forgotten to zip my pants before going to work, an unsettling discovery during meetings, especially when I’m the presenter.

For the first time, I allowed a bag boy to carry my groceries to my car. I used to have to practically wrestle the damn bags from the bag boys just to prove I was still physically capable.

I recently reached the point of being too old and impatient for fast food drive-thru service. I succumb to restaurant rage and become crotchety quicker. Case in point: After I ordered a plain cheeseburger for my daughter, the pip-squeaky speaker voice replied, “So, you don’t want cheese on it?”

“No, I do want cheese on it. Or else that would be a hamburger. I said I wanted a plain cheeseburger.”

“But you said plain.”

“I said cheeseburger!” I worried what might actually have been put on that cheeseburger because of my crankiness, but ultimately that was my daughter’s problem.

I should have taken the senior ticket at the cinema to save money, but I couldn’t because of the principle of it all. To reinforce that I was only 48, during each of the three times I visited the restroom during “The Butler” (darn prostate), I glared at the teen cashier to remind her that I was still young enough to pay full price for a movie. It’s my moviegoing right! Top price, baby! To further demonstrate my youthful coolness, I considered pulling the guitar pick out of my pocket and regaling her with my Steve Miller story; however, catching a pick thrown by a 70-year-old musician likely would not impress her.

By the way, Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” turned 40 this year, reinforcing that I’m getting older too. Suddenly, I have an urge to steal grapes.

Scott and the Will Read (and sing) For Food Players will perform a backstage show at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Jasper Arts Center to benefit the Paul Michael Ash Endowment for Music and Arts. The public is invited.




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