I went into a RiteAid drugstore recently to find those mini Bic lighters. My mistake. I had to interrupt a clerk chatting with an octogenarian lady about her health to ask where I’d find them. She walked me to the candy and food aisle and there they were, three for $3.99. And some good-looking chocolate to go with a wonderful Bordeaux I’d found.
When I checked out, the clerk asked what year I was born. “Why?” I asked.
“We have to ask everyone.”
“What? For buying Ghirardelli chocolate?”
“No. The lighters. Didn’t you see the sign on the door? We check age for cigarettes, lighters, all that.”
“Look at me! Do I look like a teenager?”
“What year were you born?” she demanded.
“1939.” Satisfied, she took my money.
Back story: I needed to replace the Bic insert in my favorite lighter, a promotional piece given to me by a niece who works at Tourneau. When I went to an air show at McGuire Air Force Base last summer the Air Police wanded me, along with the 10- and 11-year-olds I was with. Then the AP (we used to call them Apes) asked suspiciously, “What’s this?”
“A lighter. For lighting cigarettes.”
“I’ll have to take it.”
“Why?” I asked.
“We have jet fuel here.”
I replied, “I think I’m smart enough not to smoke around jet fuel.”
“We have jet fuel everywhere.” And, poof, my lighter disappeared into his pocket. Turned out all of us tourists and gawkers were stuck behind 100 yards of Jersey barriers, and another hundred yards from the planes, which kept flying back and forth, from the left and then the right, upside down and right side up, Very loudly.
I hate to be a grumpy old geezer. I should have been proud that the Air Force was protecting me against terrorists with cigarette lighters and that RiteAid was shielding the health of geezers. Still, I wonder what the immigration requirements are for moving to California. This is becoming a very scary place to live.