‘Thanks, Young Fella’

By Bruce Buschel

You are walking out of a gourmet market with a chockablock shopping bag in either hand when an employee holds the door open and says, “Have a great day, young fella.”

You halt in your tracks. The tone is polite and the intention well meaning, but the millennial gent knows full well you are not a “young fella.” You are a 72-year-old fella who knows the definition of sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt, and the definition of irony is stating the opposite of the truth for humor or emphasis. 

You wonder if you should say something to the nice lad. You might ask, “Had I been African-American, would you have said, ‘Have a great day, Caucasian dude’? Or had I been morbidly obese, would you have said, ‘Have a great day, Beanpole’?” Unlikely.

You say nothing. Anything would sound like “Get off my lawn!” Even though you have a song in your heart and a pretty good hop in your step, you fear you appear as little more than crow’s feet encroaching on a white unironic mustache perched above a smile. If anyone needed to augment “Have a great day,” couldn’t he have found visual targets other than your sags and wrinkles? 

You are wearing a gray overcoat with epaulets, ludicrously skinny blue jeans, white New Balance sneakers, and an old black Eagles cap. (That’s right: You are a Philadelphian and Philadelphians are a particularly sensitive lot, especially when unflattering words are hurled in their direction or snowballs whiz by their heads.) You would like to hear, “Have a great day and congratulations to the Eagles.” Or, “Have a great day, you tall and stylish gentleman.” You hear only a sophomoric wisecrack about being a generic senior citizen.

To the millennial at the door, you wish you had said: One knows when one is getting old, young friend; one is reminded often and dramatically, incessantly and subtly, and one need not be reminded when one is on a pleasant afternoon jaunt shopping for dinner with friends in blissful, if temporary, obliviousness to the passage of time and the nearness of death. 

You have a hankering to explain all this in complex detail, but you realize folks of fewer years prefer snappy lists to protracted essays, so you produce a baker’s dozen of the ways one knows one is getting long in the tooth.

1. You think readers know what a “baker’s dozen” is or what “long in the tooth” means.

2. You find yourself brushing your long teeth with warm water.

3. You talk to more doctors than bartenders any given week.

4. You watch “Jeopardy” (and excel with questions about the ’50s and ’60s).

5. You are offered a seat on the bus by a pregnant woman.

6. You do not know one musical group in the Billboard Top 10. (You do not know if there still exists a Billboard Top 10. Or if they still ascribe a bullet to an ascending song. You hope not.)

7. You own Apple products you don’t know how to use.

8. You notice glazed looks every time you mention Tony Curtis or Norman Mailer. 

9. You take a nap when you didn’t plan on taking a nap.

10. You meet someone and her first question is, “Are you retired?” 

11. You get a senior citizen discount at the movies without asking for one.

12. You hear “Sir” and look around for your Uncle Joe or Father Xavier.

Baker’s Bonus:

13. You are younger than Ringo and always will be.

Bruce Buschel is a writer, director, and producer. He lives in Bridgehampton.