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Brunch Sampler: Mary McCallum Brunch Sampler_122612_Mary McCallum_(laughter, applause).mp3

(Host) This week we're featuring a Sampler of some of the essays recorded before a live audience at the Commentator Brunch earlier this year. The theme - When Worlds Collide - reminded commentator Mary McCallum of an unexpected and rather shocking encounter - with herself.

(McCallum) I'm Mary McCallum and the name of my piece is called, The Discount.

I plunked the vegetables on the counter with my re-usable canvas bag. The twenty-something clerk briskly rang up broccoli, beans, lettuce, tomatoes.

"That'll be $8.50." She paused and said, "Oh no, $7.65. It's Tuesday."

"This must be my lucky day, " I thought to myself. "What's special about Tuesdays?" I asked.

"Senior Citizen discount, ten percent off,"  she replied cheerfully.

My inner child screeched, "Good grief, she thinks I'm old!" I wanted to lunge at her but muttered under my breath, "Get a grip," while I fished through my coin purse like an agitated old lady. This had never happened to me before. I paid the unsuspecting cashier and darted to the car, where I pulled down the visor mirror for a face check. Should I consider a facelift instead of the new wood stove I'd been saving for?

That was a decade ago. As a blase Baby Boomer, my first senior discount brought me down to earth with an echoing thud. It was two worlds colliding - my perpetual youth had glimpsed my graying future. And I would go kicking and screaming into that gentle night.

Like many contemporaries, I strive for health, fitness and inner peace. I work out at the gym and do yoga. As a recovering vegetarian I eat the occasional hamburger, chased by a glass of pinot noir to fight the cholesterol. Moisturizer is my friend, as are oatmeal and Omega 3 supplements. And I no longer condemn women who have plastic surgery.

Now I can laugh about that first senior discount, but to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, if truthiness be told, I'll take youthiness. Still, like the the old man hunched dreaming on a park bench feeding pigeons, and the pigeons too, we will all slow down, break apart and pass. It would, however, be handy to have a roadmap for the uncertain terrain ahead.

And one other thing - I propose a more optimistic term that Boomers can use when asking for that ten percent savings at the register. Some of us might be more accepting if the price break considered our experience rather than our senior-ness. I for one would prefer to buy my vegetables at a Wisdom Discount.

See the When Worlds Collide main page.

Mary McCallum is a freelance writer and former prison librarian who now works with Vermont elders.
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