The Golden Ticket

Sixty-four is not a big birthday. At least I keep telling myself that. We would celebrate it quietly. Bonnie and her dad know just what I like and had it planned out. However, none of us knew it would involve a Golden Ticket. No, I’m not trying out for American Idol any time soon. There will be no coveted plane ticket to Hollywood. I haven’t even kept up with the show this season. But we did head off to the outfitter store.

Bonnie had given me a blank check (within reasonable limits) to get camping gear. We discussed and she approved an air mattress I’ve had my eye on. I already have a good lightweight mattress, but it is only 20 inches wide. Not wide enough to accommodate my elbows. I have found that, since about age 60, it hurts my elbows to lay on the ground. I was hoping I could squeeze both of them onto a new 23-inch-wide Klymit Static V Full Size Sleeping Pad. (Bonnie predicted it would only do half the job.) It’s five ounces heavier than my other one, but this old guy’s gotta sleep. If it doesn’t work, I may have to resort to wearing floaties when I camp. (Maybe just one if Bonnie’s prediction is correct.)

I snagged the mattress and wandered around the store. My eyes were bigger than plates and my tongue was hanging out—partly because of the smorgasboard of ultralite gear in front of me and partly because I had been starving myself all morning for the lunch special at Golden Corral. My family pulled me to the checkout before I drooled on any of the merchandise.

When we got in the car, it was 12:50. There was just the right amount of traffic to get us to the doors of Golden Corral at 12:59:45. Perfect! We had remarked on the way about how impeccable our timing was. We always plan on eating at 1:00 because that is when the senior special with free drinks begins. We paced out the remaining 15 seconds, then went through the line and got our drinks. At the checkout, the bill seemed high. We questioned it and found that the special now doesn’t start until 2:00! Bonnie complained to no one in particular because she never pays for a drink. She is perfectly content to drink water unless the drink is free. She was now stuck with a costly drink she didn’t really want. The manager apologized and said he would bring some coupons to our table to help offset the bill. We didn’t understand how that would help since we couldn’t use them on our bill that day. As we walked to our table, Bonnie asked me how impeccable my timing was now. I detected a bit of sarcasm and wondered why it was now my impeccable timing.

After half an hour with no visit from the manager (even though I stared at him every time he passed close to our table), we began to think that he had just been trying to placate us and that he expected us to forget about his generous gesture. In spite of no forthcoming coupons, we had a delicious meal, as usual. Golden Corral is often my first choice for a birthday meal. You can’t beat the selection.

On our way out, I stopped by the register to remind the manager about the coupons. He apologized again and went to his office. He returned and handed me several pieces of paper. Back in the car, we carefully examined them. There were four Golden Bucks, each one $1.00 off of a meal. They can’t be used with any other offer, which probably means they can’t be used for the 2:00 (previously 1:00) senior special. And they expire in less than a month, sooner than we plan to return. Looks like they are Golden Tickets for the restaurant to get more business rather than for us to save money.

Oh well. Maybe Golden Tickets come in different colors and shapes. Mine was in the form of a supply of dehydrated backpacker meals from my father-in-law and the new air mattress. It’s a Golden Ticket to happy camping for me—and at least one of my elbows.

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