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A WHAT discount?! Who are you calling a senior?

The Bright Side: Joe Bushue


It was like a sucker punch to the gut. Oh, I guess I knew it would eventually come. But I sure wasn’t ready for it. Not yet. It was a situation that took all I could possibly think of to even make myself feel better, let alone anyone else.

One night my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to go to Taco Bell with her and my niece and nephews for dinner. She added the magic words that were the ultimate deal closer: “I’ll pay.”

“You bet,” I replied.

What I thought would just be going to dinner soon became the equivalent of a mini- “Twilight Zone.”

My sister-in law said to me, “Just tell the girl what you want.”

I told her I wanted a chicken burrito and a small drink. The girl then repeated the order: “A chicken burrito and a SENIOR drink.”

Now I was only 49 at the time, and the word “senior” drink hit me with the effect of a sudden plunge into an ice cold pool.

I immediately said, again quite loudly, “It is not a SENIOR drink!” at which time I heard my sister-in-law say, “Be quiet, I’m getting a discount, and I’m paying.”

I told her, “Helen, I’ll pay you a dollar more. It is not a SENIOR drink!”

The words still hang in my mind with the persistence of a bad habit. It was the first time I had been offered any kind of a discount for seniors. I wasn’t a senior; my parents were.

When we got the food and returned to the table, my sister-in-law thought it was quite comical that the 16-year-old girl at the counter thought I was a senior.

This laughter was soon dissipated by my pointing out that she probably thought I was also her husband.

With those words still ringing in my ears and tattooed on my brain forever for the first time, I thought to myself: There has to be a way to somehow ease the sting of this almost surrealistic moment. I didn’t think I looked old enough to be mistaken for a (gasp, choke) SENIOR. I still had all of my hair and none of it was gray! There were no other tell tale signs that I could figure out.

With all that in mind, I finally realized she must have offered me a chicken burrito and a SENIOR drink. Anyway, that’s my story, and the one I settled on. It may have been my spin or my I invention as to how it all happened, but it’s the one I’m going to stick with.

I was pretty happy with how I was able to resolve the situation for myself: and thought it was probably a one time incident, even though those words still rang in my mind.

But then about a year later it happened again.

I ordered my lunch at McDonald’s, and as the girl was ringing up the total, the manager (this time she was about 30) told the girl, “That’s only $1.50.”

Since I was ordering off the dollar menu and had gotten two items, I knew the total was “$2. I made the mistake of asking why only $1.50.

“That’s a senior Coke,” she said.

That word again. This time it kind of stung like iodine on an open wound. I said, quite loudly, and very indignantly, “Excuse me, I’m only 50! How old do you think I am, and how old do you have to be?”

She was somewhat embarrassed, and said, “There are no set rules, it’s just a judgment call.”

A judgment call? I certainly didn’t feel like a senior, and it was hard to understand how anyone could possibly think I looked like one. But then I realized I had entered that netherworld between young and old. I had entered unwillingly into the world of discount haircuts, coffee, stretch waist pants, white shoes that closed with Velcro and a myriad of other possible AARP-type products if I wanted to pursue them.

I decided I was not going to. I’d fight tooth and nail to not join my parents’ peer group any earlier than necessary.

Now you may wonder what could possibly be a “bright side” to this. Well I learned one thing. Pick and choose your fights, and that one thing stronger then pride is cheapness.

Therefore, while I’m going to fight becoming a SENIOR as long as I can, and live life as young as I feel, I’m going to do it with half-price Cokes from McDonald’s.

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. His column recounts some of the humorous sides of his disability and his slants on life in general. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..