Partying Like I’m 21—Again

As the year 2013 draws to a close I become aware of old age. (No, not mine. Other people’s.)

I stopped in at the corner gas station to fill up the tank this morning. Small talking isn’t my best skill but I can do it with the best of them when the opportunity calls for it. As I was paying, I said to the attendant, “What do you have planned for New Year’s Eve?”

“I’m celebrating tonight,” she said. “You won’t catch me on the road tomorrow night with those crazy, drunk 21-year-olds. They think they’re never gonna die.”

Funny, I thought she was 21 years old. Now she was sounding like an old person. Of course, I’ve thought she was 21 for as long as I’ve been filling up at the corner gas station. I think she might have been when she first started working there but that was—come to think of it—about 21 years ago. I’ve watched her stand behind the counter and get older for probably half her life but the image of her as a 21-year-old remained implanted in my mind. You know: first impression. Of course she’s gotten grayer over the years and she’s acquired a paunch; my image had her simply evolving into an out-of-shape 21-year-old. I didn’t age. Why should she?

“I was 21 once,” I responded. I lied. I’ve been 21 three times already and am into my fourth cycle.

“Drive carefully,” she said.

“Are you kidding? I’ll be at home,” I said. “You won’t catch me on the road.”