The misery started right after I pulled up to the gas pump. I had forgotten my debit card.
''Take mine,'' my wife said. She dug into her purse and handed over a piece of plastic imprinted with the picture of a lady bug.
''Get that thing away from me. Real guys don't do cutesy.''
''Real guys who forget to pack their pockets do.''
I grabbed the stupid cutesy bug card.
Fortunately, my customer loyalty card dangled from my key ring. Unfortunately, it wouldn't scan at the pump. I had to go inside.
(Note to self: Ask the librarian at the research desk to look up who invented customer loyalty cards and see if that person has been arrested for ruining the day when the posted price used to be the price a guy paid, loyalty or no.)
I hobbled into the service station. I couldn't find the machine with the glass Coke bottles, so I stuck a foam cup under the drink dispenser.
(Note to self: Stop calling them service stations. Nobody checks your oil or washes your windshield. They're convenience stores, where you can buy sandwiches and gasoline at the same place - and hope they don't smell the same.)
I parked my Coke and myself at the checkout counter. The little girl smiled up at me. ''Can I get you anything else, Hon?''
''Stop calling me 'Hon' like I'm some old coot,'' I thought.
Out loud, I said, ''Thirty dollars on Pump...'' What was it again? Oh, yeah. ''...Pump 4.''
I clutched the cutesy bug card, trying not to let it show.
(Note to self: Tell the kids about cash. And service attendants who clicked out your change from coin belts?)
''OK, Hon, now you need to slide your card through the scanner right there. Stripe side down. Oh, what a cute little bug. Now slide it through.''
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm not THAT ancient. My generation invented technology, you know.
I rammed the card through the machine. Nuts. I flipped it over and crammed it through the right way.
The little girl smiled. ''Now it will ask you debit or credit. OK, now the signature line will come up, and you need to sign your name.''
I grabbed the pretend plastic pen thingy and scratched on the screen before the little girl offered to help me make my mark.
(Note to self: Stop calling people in their early 20s ''little boys'' and ''little girls.'' It makes you sound old.)
''Now, you're done. It's OK, you're done now. You can go pump your gas.''
I ignored her, standing pat until my signature disappeared from the screen. I don't walk all the way into the convenience store to have the next guy in line walk up and pay for his order with my cutesy bug card.
Finally, the scanner zapped back to the ''Please slide your card'' welcome screen. I creaked my way to the car to pump my gas.
Afterward, I flung the cutesy bug card back to my wife. ''The little girl in the service station treated me like a doddering geezer, all because of that,'' I snapped.
My wife smiled. ''Yes, I'm sure it was the lady bug. Otherwise she would have noticed your youth, vim and vigor. Careful, the Coke you're dribbling shows up like a Burma-Shave billboard in the white of your beard.''
(Note to self: Make sure the wall calendar at home contains at least 12 pages. They don't seem to last as long as they used to.)
----- Reminisce with the codger at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.