Posts Tagged 'Parking lots'

Getting Old

When I was a student at the University of Illinois, one of the weekend highlights was to drag on down to Kam’s, the local beer joint, and slam back a few beers.  The drinking age was 21 and I was about two years short of being able to drink without risking a trip to the electric chair.

For whatever reason, probably some residual face pudginess acquired during my formative years, I seemed to be the only one that was religiously carded by the Kam’s servers.  On those nights I merely drank cokes and wrote letters to Sweetie on scraps of paper that had escaped the fate of wiping up after someone else threw up.  On luckier nights I got to drink maybe three eight-ounce beers before I was mentally and physically incapable of writing coherent phrases to the one I loved.  I still have that problem.

Fast forward to three kids, a home in the suburbs, a loss of most of my pudginess and a cessation to the embarrassment  of carding.  A long ago business trip to San Diego and a stop at Bob’s Big Boy for a grease laden burger produced a sea change in the eyes of those with a need to know how old I was.  Strolling up to the cashier with money in hand, I was prepared to pay my bill.  “Oh, you qualify for the senior discount.  Lucky you.”  I had no idea of Big Bob’s age requirement and was sure that I couldn’t possibly qualify, but who was I to forfeit an opportunity to save 10%.  “Yes, this is my lucky day thank you.”

A few years later, a vacation to free-spirited Scotland stripped me of any remaining vestigial face fat.  Riding in a shuttle driven by a really scary old man and having nothing better to do while waiting for him to drive off a bridge, we discussed the wonderfulness of aging.  Feeling lucky I said “how old do you think I am?”  Without hesitation he added about twenty years to my true atomic clock age and said “seventy-two?”  I never ask that question any more.

Last Tuesday we went to Santa Barbara, the grand city of cool breezes, the noisiest outdoor mall, and the State Street “what the hell do they sell in there” shops.  We stashed the car in the mall parking structure, checked three times that we had our parking ticket and walked down the stairs to street level.  I was catatonic by the time we reached ground zero.  No less than a dozen signs warned me that upon our return I better have my ticket and be prepared to pay by using one of those Vincent Price designed machines that take your card, snatch your money and hand you back a pass off Devil’s Island.  And don’t expect anyone to help, the signs screamed.

We ate a very tasty pulled pork sandwich on crusty bread at a cute joint that only had three items on the menu.  It still took us five minutes to figure out what we wanted.   Following the consumption of a medium-sized diet coke, we needed to pee.  What better place to do that than at the museum just up the street.  Who cares if it costs six bucks to get in even with a senior discount.  A clean toilet bowl and a waste container that doesn’t seem to be occupied by an extraterrestrial is worth the price.

Time to go home.  But first check again that we have our parking ticket.  We arrived at the parking structure and faced the Vincent Price machine.  Looked innocent enough.  Several flashing lights meant to help, instead made me feel like I was being scanned for contraband.  Finding the flashing horizontal LEDs that seemed to be lighting a runway from the movie Airport,  I spotted the words “credit card”.  No problem since I had been fingering my card for some time to the point that it was now my closest friend.  Let’s see.  Just stick it in the slot under the runway lights.

“It’s gotta go in there” I grunted as the machine put up the Berlin wall.  Why doesn’t it go in there?

A young man who was next in line to challenge the machine said “Excuse me sir, I think you might have better luck if you insert the card above the lights rather than below.”  Of course, how silly of me.

That began a series of instructions from the young man that were obviously generated by his presumption that I was a doddering old fool who would die of starvation in this parking lot if he didn’t come to my rescue.  And he did it all so gently that I didn’t have the heart to say “Shut up and leave me alone.  You who haven’t an ounce of the worldly knowledge acquired by me in the last seventy-three years.”  Meanwhile, the line of Vincent Price victims behind us began to grow exponentially.

We concluded our transaction before nightfall and, to make a point, we shunned the elevator, bounded up three flights of parking lot stairs and cleverly disguised the fact that we were out of breath.

I sat in the car and worried about the next part of the adventure that required the insertion of the now validated parking ticket into what was sure to be an another machine with a tantalyzing slot just beyond my arm’s length.  I thought about the young man and his helpfulness.  I mused about getting old and how I might take other advantages of that unavoidable condition.  And I felt good.


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