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Akst: Pulling off the perfect crime

Some guys skydive (been there, done that).

Some guys buy a fast car. I’d love a Corvette, but this week we spent our spare cash on a heating/cooling system for our house.

Some guys get wasted (amateurs).

I try to teach students to look for fresh angles to a story – to think outside the box – so I’m compelled to celebrate my 50th birthday uniquely.

I’m going to defraud a corporation, and I won’t get caught. And even if I do get caught, 1. I’ll still get away with it, and 2. the corporation I’m defrauding will apologize to me.

I got the idea a couple of weeks ago. We stopped by a grocery (rhymes with My Free). The store wasn’t crowded, and we wound up in one of those weird-looking checkout lines that seem to have a special purpose nobody can identify.

A managerial type started ringing me up, asking, “Where’s Katie?” I didn’t know.

Katie rushed up, theatrically whispering she was in “the little girl’s room.” Strange that somebody who might be a college student would use that euphemism, but whatever.

Katie took over and began speaking in that octave-higher, inflected chirp adults use for kids, like, “Did the doctor give you a sticker for being brave?”

I was puzzled, and then I realized she was using Old People Voice on me.

“Do you have a fuel saver card?” she beamed.

“Yes, but I left it at home,” I said.

Katie said that’s OK, she’d just give me a new one, and then made a big deal of the SPECIAL SAVINGS that would REALLY ADD UP if I shopped Mondays.

“I’m just gonna go ahead and put that sticker right on your new card, and that way you’ll always have it,” Katie said happily. She handed me the card.

It was the senior discount (an additional 5 percent off every Monday), but – my eyes dropped to the badly designed flyer taped to the check-writing platform – you have to be “55 or older” to get the discount.

Katie aged me 6 years in 60 seconds. Stunned, I said thanks, put the card in my wallet and left. My wife was amused. Nobody verified that I qualify for the senior discount. Nobody asked for ID.

People, look at my picture (online readers: visualize a smarter looking Brad Pitt). That was taken early this year. Do I look 55? If not, I would appreciate a supportive email or a Corvette. If so, keep your mouth shut.

Normally, we do our weekly grocery stopping on weekends, but for an extra 5 percent off, we could shop Mondays. It’s the perfect crime.

But wait, you say, it’s not perfect because you’re admitting the crime right here. They’ll catch you.

Nah. People don’t trust what they read in the news. Besides, it’s the store’s fault for starting this, and they insulted me in the process. If the scam goes sour and real trouble seems possible, I’ll just look confused and say I was having “a senior moment.”

Trust me, I’ve pulled off WAY bigger stunts than this.

In earlier drafts of this column, I considered relaying startling truths I’m perceiving as I crack the mid-century mark. That would be helpful.

But it’s time for my nap.

OK, maybe just one: Prejudices, the Internet, pundits, stupidity and arrogance have conspired to worsen one of our worst flaws, which is to judge first and ask questions later.

• Jason Akst teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University. You can reach him at

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