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The Truth, Mainly - 06/02/1997

Finding new roads to wealth: The senior citizen discount

“Hah!” I yell to my wife.

I hand her the newspaper and point to the AP story about the geezer who wears dirty jeans and gives away money in Leesburg, Va. His name is Irwin Uran, he’s 71, and he’s suing a former girlfriend for not returning his cat and his goat.

But that’s not why I yell “Hah!”

Nor is it because Irwin Uran lives in a Best Western motel with his dog, Roger, and just gave a million dollars to Leesburg “to help children.” Irwin Uran says he has about $400 million.

No, what excites me is a quotation from the proprietor of a bagel shop where Irwin Uran eats bagels: “He always asks for the senior citizen discount.”

That’s what makes me yell “Hah!” to my wife.

“Let’s see,” she says without looking up from her crossword puzzle. “That’s a ‘hah’ with an exclamation point rather than a ‘hah’ with a question mark, so rather than indicating befuddlement it denotes reinforcement of some odd little belief of yours. What is it this time?”

“Oh, not much,” I say. “Just another story about a guy who has 400 million smackerooskies because he always asks for the senior citizen discount on his bagel.”

My wife is embarrassed when I ask for my senior citizen discount. I’m entitled. She’s not. Sometimes I ask for the senior citizen discount for both of us.

“He wears dirty jeans just like mine,” I say while she reads the story. “He lives in a Best Western with his dog, Roger. I imagine Best Western has a nice little senior citizen discount, but he could save even more in a little mom-and-pop motel like the one where we stay in Ogallala.”

She doesn’t like staying in the little mom-and-pop motel in Ogallala, but I work it so I’m driving when we go through there; the rule is that whoever is driving gets to pick the restaurant and the motel.

“Anyway,” I say, “it’s not staying in the motel that made him rich. It’s the bagels. Read the part about the bagels.”

She finishes and hands back the the paper.

“Wrong again, Bozo,” she says. “Doesn’t say Irwin Uran piled up 400 million smackerooskies from senior citizen discounts on his bagels. Says he ‘made his fortune investing wisely.’ Something you’re laughably befuddled about.”

“The best offense is defense,” I say. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Think about it, Mr. Buffett,” she says. “Say a bagel sandwich costs $3.60. Say the senior citizen discount is 10 percent. Any idea how many he’d have to eat to save 400 million smackerooskies?”

“Hah?” I say as she whips out her pocket calculator.

“He’d have to eat more than a trillion bagel sandwiches,” she says. “If he ate three a day, it would take him more than 370 million days. More than a million years.”

“Sure,” I say, “make fun of economy. Ridicule thrift. Mock prudence. Had you been born, as I was, in 1934, a poor forlorn Depression Baby, you too would—”

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“Have inbibed frugality with my mother’s milk?” she says. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then I could have been the second tightest wad in town.”

“The Depression saved old Irwin Uran,” I say. “He was born in the Roaring Twenties and he’d have lived a life of rampant spendthrifthood had it not been for the Depression. Now he’s got $400 million and he gets a senior citizen discount.”

“Seems strange,” she says. “Doesn’t it?”

“The cat and the goat?” I say. “Yeah, that’s real weird.”

“I mean,” she says, “it seems strange that someone with $400 million gets a senior citizen’s discount.”

“He’s entitled,” I say. Sometimes I have to spell it out for her. “He’s 71.”

“But you’d think they’d give discounts to people who need them,” she says. “People with $400 million don’t need them.”

“Class warfare!” I yelp. “Galloping bolshevism! Next you’ll be saying I don’t need a senior citizen discount either.”

“When were we the poorest we’ve ever been?” she asks.

“That’s easy, I say. “When we were in our twenties with three babies and a mortgage.”

“And when did we have the most mney we’ve ever had?” she asks.

“Right now,” I say. “The kids are gone and the mortgage is paid off.”

“So doesn’t it seem strange that you didn’t get a junior citizen discount when you needed it?” she says. “Instead of a senior citizen discount when you don’t need it?”

“Hey, this is America,” I say. “The more you got, the more you get. It’s a wunnerful, wunnerful system.”

Patriotism wells up inside me and I burst into song: “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer. In the meantime, in between time, ain’t we got fun?”

“Oh Lord,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Can we begin the fun by staying in a motel without bugs next time we’re in Ogallala?”

It doesn’t sound like a question. It sounds like an ultimatum. But I have limits beyond which I won’t be pushed.

“Yes, m’love,” I say. “If we find a bagel shop with senior citizen discounts.”


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.


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