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"One for the Ages"

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Now that I have reached 55, which means I am only 10 years from retirement, although at this rate I will be working posthumously, I realize how much I have in common with the highway speed limit: Nobody obeys either one of us.

Nonetheless, I have reason to be happy, not only because I am still alive (maybe I should get a second opinion), but because, according to AARP, I am officially eligible for senior discounts.

As a baby boomer who still acts like a baby even though the boom is over, I firmly believe that people my age deserve a price break. This belief is rooted in one unshakable truth: I'm cheap.

So I recently called Luci de Haan, a spokeswoman for AARP in New York City, to find out how much I could save.

"You can get discounts from hotels, airlines and companies that are licensees of AARP," de Haan told me. "You can also go to movie theaters with your AARP card. There's not an official arrangement between smaller vendors and AARP, but you can try."

Shortly after my birthday, I went to a CVS pharmacy on Long Island, N.Y., to buy some toiletries. But when I put a can of shaving cream, a pack of razor blades and a stick of deodorant on the counter and asked if I could get a senior discount, cashier Christina Hendrickson said, "You tried this five years ago when you turned 50. It didn't work then and it won't work now."

"But I'm officially eligible," I pleaded.

"You could have one foot in the grave and you wouldn't get a discount," said Hendrickson, who is in her 30s. "It's against company policy."

I paid the full price, which came to $15.72, and went to Port Jeff Beverage Center to see if I could get a senior discount on a six-pack of beer.

"You tried this five years ago when you turned 50," said manager Frank Stoutenburg, echoing Hendrickson at CVS. "It didn't work then and it won't work now."

Stoutenburg, who recently turned 50, said that when he got his first mailing from AARP, he threw it in the garbage. "I'm in serious denial," he acknowledged.

Owner Bruce Bezner, 52, said that age is relative. "I have a grandson who's 6 and a son who's 5," Bezner noted. He paused and added: "Different wives."

"Besides," Stoutenburg said, "55 is the new 35, so you wouldn't qualify for a discount anyway. You're way too young and way too good-looking. With the exception of a few more gray hairs, which make you appear distinguished, you look the same as you did when you turned 50."

That made me feel a little better, so I paid the full $10 for my beer and headed over to Charmed Salon & Spa to see if I could get a senior discount on a haircut.

"Sure, why not?" said owner Maria Vieira, who has been cutting my hair, both gray and brown, since I was in my 40s, which is the age group she is in, although, like me, she looks a lot younger.

Maria - we're on a first-name basis - said she would charge me the regular price for a haircut, a very reasonable $17, but would throw in a free shampoo and conditioning treatment for an overall saving of 30 percent.

That sounded good to me, so I went in the back to be worked into a lather by an assistant shampoo specialist named Luz, who declined to give her age but hinted that she, too, might be considered a boomer. She also might be considered an angel because her Angel Wash treatment was heavenly.

Afterward, I got my hair cut by Maria, who pointed out that 55 is middle age because the average life expectancy is between 90 and 100. I don't know if those figures are accurate, but since 55 is the new 35, they must be.

"When you turn 65," Maria promised, "I'll clip your nose hairs for free."

I can't wait! Until then, I'll enjoy getting older. And even if I can't get senior discounts anywhere else, it beats the alternative.

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima can be reached at JerryZ111@optonline.net. His blog is www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima