|“Do you have a middle-age discount?” my wife asks.
The hotel desk clerk is typing into a reservation computer behind a cold marble counter, and doesn’t crack a smile. “A what, Madam?”
“Excuse me,” she says. “I am not now, and have never been the proprietor of a brothel. Please call me by my name, which is Jane Treehill.”
He looks into her face, but quickly turns away as if burned. “Very well Ma---, Mrs. Treehill.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
The clerk is typing again on his computer, and asks, “I’m sorry, what question was that, Madam?”
I know what’s coming, and I make a puppy-dog face at Jane to try to convince her to stop. She winks at me and dives right in. Her face turns a shade of purple, which is a talent she can turn on at will. When she doesn’t answer right away, the clerk stops tapping at his keyboard and looks up at her. “Mrs.---Mrs. Treehill, I mean.”
An announcer’s voice in my head starts a play-by-play. Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. In the red corner, weighing in at one-hundred fifty-five pounds, and sporting a stud in his left nostril, Charles the-desk-clerk Jones. And in the blue corner, weighing in at one-hundred and (words garbled) pounds, and winner of several middle-age matches, Jane the-intimidator Treehill.
“Do you have a middle-age discount?” she asks again, enunciating each word and separating them with pauses.
“I’m sorry, Ma---, Mrs. Treehill, but I do not know what a middle-age discount is.”
Jane smiles. “A discount, young man, is a reduction in the published rate you charge at this fine establishment. Do you, or do you not, offer reduced rates for children?”
“Yes---, Mrs. Treehill. Children fifteen and under stay free.”
“And do you, or do you not, offer a senior discount?”
“Of course. We offer a twenty-five percent discount for guests fifty-five and over.”
“My husband and I are both middle-aged, thirty six to be exact, and we would like a discount commensurate with our age. If fifteen is a one-hundred percent discount, and fifty-five is a twenty-five percent discount, then---.” She pauses and looks at me for the math.
I’ve always been good with numbers, so after a short pause I say, “That would be a sixty-one percent discount, I believe.”
Jane turns back to the clerk and says, “We would like the sixty-one percent middle-age discount, please.”
“M--- Mrs. Treehill, I’m sorry but we do not offer a middle-age discount.”
I have only a small part to play in this charade, but after twelve years of marriage I know it well. I open my eyes wide and drop my jaw in astonishment.
There are now several people behind us waiting to get their room keys, all of whom appear to be middle-aged. They have the hungry look that sharks get when they sense blood in the water. A fiftyish lady in a wrinkled business suit at the back of the growing line says, “For Pete’s sake, just give them the middle-age discount.” The rest of the people in the queue murmur their assent and nod their heads.
The desk clerk lowers his voice and says to my wife, “Mrs. Treehill, there’s nothing I can do, there is no such thing as a middle-age discount.”
My wife has the look of righteous indignation down pat, and she displays it now. In a loud voice she says, “What do you mean you have no middle-age discount, young man? That’s middle-age discrimination!”
The lady in back says to the group in front of her, “Did you hear that? They don’t have a middle age discount. In all my years, I’ve never heard of such a thing.” I smile in her direction, and silently mouth the words, “bless your heart”. Her chest twitches, and it looks like she’s trying hard to keep from laughing.
At long last the hotel manager has noticed the raised voices and comes over to investigate. He draws the desk clerk away from the counter, and they confer for several moments. The clerk gesticulates at my wife and the growing line, but the manager grabs his wrists and speaks to him in a forceful whisper.
Without a word, the manager reaches under the counter, pulls out an envelope, and walks around to us. He hands my wife a coupon, then hands one to each group in the line behind us. My wife is grinning from ear-to-ear as she shows it to me. It says, “We are sorry for the inconvenience. We’d like to make it up to you. Please present this coupon at your next stay, and we will take 25% off your room rate.”
The clerk looks at my wife and asks, “Do you have any discount coupons?”