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COLUMNS

Jason Offutt: They say it’s just a number

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

For my birthday this year I discovered I didn’t really want to talk about it. I’m at the middle of middle age, which runs between 45 and 65 years, at least according to the United States Census Bureau.

But what does the Census Bureau know? Forty-five to 65 only makes sense as middle age if people live between 90 years (which is 4.7 percent of the population) and 130 years (which is zero).

The oldest person on record was Jeanne Calment of Arles, France, who lived from 1875 to 1997. I’m pretty sure I won’t make it to Calment’s 122 years because my health regimen is different than hers; I don’t eat red meat daily, drink wine or smoke.

Maybe I should start.

I announced my birthday on social media in the form of a riddle: “I am an interstate that runs from Chicago to LaPlace, Louisiana. I am a dive bar in Greenwich Village. I am Junior Seau’s jersey. I am what Sammy Hagar couldn’t drive in 1984. I can order from a special menu at Denny’s. I can get cheap coffee at McDonald’s.”

I turned 55 on June 1 and much like “does my butt look big in these jeans,” I didn’t want to address it.

Fifty-five, I’ve always assumed, is an age that falls into the deer hiding from a predator category. If you can’t see it, it can’t see you. I didn’t get how 55 was anything but one step closer to Calment until I realized it could provide the one thing all Offutts love – getting drunk.

No. Wait. I meant saving money.

“Good morning,” my wife said. It was about 5:50 a.m. on a Monday and neither of us had to go to work. Why were we up so early? For me, see the above age. “Happy birthday.”

Birthday? Oh, yeah, it was my birthday. I sat up in bed, horror movie style, all wide eyes and frozen scream.

“Put on pants,” I said, trying not to shout. Once the kids are awake, they suck all the parental free will out of the house. “We have to go.”

“What?”

I didn’t give her a chance to drag an answer from me. She might have refused.

“Where are we going?” she asked after we were safely in a moving car.

“McDonald’s.” This sounded strange, like a lie or one of those sitcom lines people are never clever enough to say in real life.

“What?”

“You’ve said ‘what’ a lot today and it’s only 5:55.” I think this was called treading on thin ice. “Hmm. 5:55,” I said again. “You know what that means?”

She shook her head. “No. I’ve been asking.”

“Just wait.”

I pulled into the McDonald’s drive-through and rolled down the window.

“I turned 55 today,” I said into the microphone. “I would like to get two coffees with my senior discount.”

Senior discount. The one blessing of being 55 years old – cheap coffee. We drove home in silence, a smile of accomplishment on my face.

So, what’s next for Jason? Denny’s has a special senior menu for people 55 and older.

Oh, Denny’s. I’m coming for you, probably with cheap McDonald’s coffee on my breath.

Jason Offutt’s upcoming novel, “So You Had to Build a Time Machine,” is available for preorder at jasonoffutt.com.