So I’m excited to be in Athens, Georgia, yesterday.
I have just spent the morning with my daughter’s family, watching my granddaughter play soccer with the Purple Crush (how AWESOME a name for a soccer team composed of scurrying three, four, and five year olds) and then making a lunch of a veggie Cuban with everything and enough Diet Coke to put out the ensuing mouth fire. Don’t judge.
Next activity on my Athenian Saturday was to drive over to the UGA campus and take in an afternoon of NCAA Championship Tennis quarterfinal activity at the tennis center. I could not think of a finer way on Memorial Day weekend to get some sunshine, dehydrate myself and have an excuse to wear my summer Tilley hat than a tennis tournament.
I park Rosie and walk up to the mobile ticket trailer set up outside the tennis complex. The cost of admission is ten bucks. I pull out my wallet, grab a twenty and put my face as close to the ticket window as possible. The white-haired gentleman on the other side of the window does the same. I shove my folded twenty into the little metal tray under the glass.
Then it happens.
The event that changes my life forever.
The milestone that I always knew I would reach, some day, somewhere (probably in line at the local CVS or something), but not today. Not one week after my second daughter has just married and is packing to move to Denver, Colorado, which I think is in a whole different country than South Carolina.
“Hi!” says the Silver Fox. “You’re in luck. Senior citizen tickets are just six bucks today.”
My hand freezes, the twenty still between my thumb and forefinger, halfway in, halfway out of the little silver channel, sort of like I am in relationship to MY GRAVE, I think almost reflexively after hearing this pronouncement from the man behind the glass who MUST be at least sixty years older than me. Hell, maybe eighty years older.
I swear, I think I turned around to look over my shoulder to see who he was talking to.
There was nobody in line behind me.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Senior citizen tickets,” Silver Fox repeats, like he thinks I am not only old enough to purchase one of these decade markers but I’m also DEAF.
“They’re six dollars today.”
He looks at me, then down at my hand with the death grip on the twenty, then back at my face again. I know that if I release my hold on this piece of currency, that if I complete this transaction and take him up on his offer to buy an OLD MAN’S ticket, that, like a bad relationship, I will have consummated something that will haunt me for the rest of my natural life.
Something that I now know, just by buying this ticket, is much shorter than it was thirty five seconds ago.
“Oh, wow.” I say lamely. “Well, yeah, okay. Six bucks. Cool.”
I think I am probably drooling now. I’m not sure, but I may have just had a stroke or developed urinary incontinence or caught toenail fungus.
He asks if I also have a dollar so that he can give me a ten and a five back instead of using all of his singles making change for me. I secretly think that he is giving me the cognitive portion of a mental status examination.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t,” I say, truthfully.
The lady next to me flips a rumpled greenback my way.
“Here you go. Don’t make the man use all his singles.”
So now I’m OLD and I am receiving charity from a lady I have never met who feels sorry for me because I have incontinence and toe fungus (she could tell, I’m sure she could). This has got to be a nightmare. I’m going to wake up, young and alive and in bed with a George Clooney castoff. I can feel it. Come on, come on, come on.
“Thanks,” Silver Fox says, handing me back a ten and his last four singles. I flip the dollar back to the lady and thank her just the same. He gives me my ticket, which looks yellowed and nicotine stained in my hand. (I made that part up)
I take my ticket, my first ever Senior Citizen Ticket, turn around, and walk toward the entrance to the complex.
The grandstand is steep. The day is hot. The sun is blazing.
I hope they have an ambulance on standby.
Dehydration and falls are two of the most common things that get us old guys, you know.
Well, at least I know I can ask for a discount on my next veggie Cuban.