essays

The Early Bird Pact

early bird signMore important than “to love and cherish” or “in sickness and health” is the vow we made to each other many years ago – no early bird dinners. I’m not sure how it all began, but it may have had something to do with watching some seniors shuffle into the local Horn and Horn Smorgasbord Cafeteria at 4 o’clock in order to get the cheaper Early Bird dinner. One of us looked at the other and we vowed at that moment, to never, ever go to one of those things.

It’s a lot like the “shoot me if I get like that” promise that spouses extract from each other. There’s something about a herd of seniors being corralled into a cafeteria to eat at 4 pm (whether they’re hungry or not) that’s very unsettling. The restaurant views them as a captive audience that can be manipulated easily by the promise of a discount because they’re living on fixed incomes. Maybe that’s why there are so few guys wearing ascots or women wearing diamonds at an early bird dinner.

Does eating dinner at 4 pm mean you’re in bed under the covers by 8? Why does being older mean you have to miss all the fun? We want to eat at 8 pm and stay out until 10 or 11. Where’s the fun in sitting at home watching reruns? I would rather eat less and pay less than be rounded up like docile cattle for the chow line because the restaurant wants to fill some seats and get me out before the high rollers show up (if there are early bird signany high rollers going to cafeterias).

Even the elder hostels give me pause. Sure, the programs are great and they take the guesswork out of the planning, but there’s that herding thing going on again. Like lemmings following the lady with the red umbrella at the museum. I’m too much the nonconformist to go there.

I’ll take the discount for seniors at the movie theatre, museums, for bus/train fare, and at the supermarket. That’s only fair. We paid our dues by paying full price all these years. And it’s okay if a younger person allows me to go ahead of them (age before beauty is a reasonable accommodation). But, we have promised ourselves that there are no Early Bird dinners in our future, and it’s a promise we intend to keep.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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