The Roundup -

Hooray for Senior Meals


Whoever dreamed up the senior meal program deserves a large pat on the back. It makes sense for a variety of reasons, including the obvious ones such as it gets seniors out to socialize with peers while at the same time ensuring they receive a terrific meal for a nominal price. A bonus point of course to the outing itself means someone else cooks the meal and that means a lot as well. For many seniors, that one nutritious meal may be one of the best meals he or she eats all week.

I remember when I lived in the Sidney area, several of my older Crane neighbors looked forward with great anticipation to senior meals throughout the county. Each town offered a senior meal on a different day of the week, making it possible for the Crane group to eat a senior lunch four or five days each week. The group would make the rounds and eat at the Sidney senior center one day, the Savage senior center another day, and travel to Lambert for the senior meal served there another day of the week. This group even went to Miles City on occasion, as well as to Williston to partake of the senior meals held in those respective towns.

These men and women always had a wonderful outing, enjoyed the food, appreciated the cooks at the various locations, and took advantage of all the camaraderie these noon lunches could provide. They returned home well fed and well satisfied with their jaunts around the county.

I figured senior meals provided a great excursion for the older set but because I worked full time, I never attended any of them when I reached the correct number of years required to participate at the reduced cost. The senior lunch program seemed designed for older retired people, not just older people. Some of us old geezers will likely have to work until we start to drool and forget our names. Retirement exists for lucky people who either did something right and have a decent pension over and above social security, or have a spouse who serves the dual function of meal ticket and provider.

My ability to participate in senior meals changed when I moved to Virginia City last October, even though I continue to work full time. Early in December of last year I discovered the Virginia City creamery hosted senior lunches twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For a mere $3 anyone over the age of 60 could receive a delicious meal. The creamery even offered to-go boxes, which meant even though I worked full time, I could still get a nutritious, tasty lunch twice a week.

That is, if I could persuade a co-worker to pick up this goodness for me. See, I walk to work and my place of work is a good mile from the creamery. I also work four ten hour days, which means I have no true lunch hour. I get a 20 minute break in the morning and a 20 minute break in the afternoon, so this allows for NO time to walk the mile to the creamery, pick up lunch, and walk back to work. Therefore, I needed to convince fellow workers of the benefits they would receive by picking up my lunch twice a week.

This would seem simple, since one lady goes for the mail every day around noon, other staff members will make trips up to the courthouse and back on occasion, and sometimes someone simply wants lunch and will go to either the creamery or the café to pick up a sandwich. However, nothing ever seems to work as planned. A coworker decided one Tuesday to get lunch at the creamery and she asked if any of the rest of us wanted anything. I promptly said that yes, I did, it was senior day so could she please get me the Italian chicken sandwich and tell Mark, the proprietor, who knows me and can see without carding me that yes indeed I have reached the age to qualify for senior meals, that the sandwich was for me, so please apply the senior discount.

My coworker was horrified. There was no way, she informed me, that she would walk into the creamery and ask for a senior meal. If I phoned ahead, she would get it with great reluctance, but the idea of mentioning seniors and food in one breath seemed to make this poor woman gag. I couldn't, and still can't, see what she found so appalling about asking for a senior meal; I mean, if she lives long enough, she too will qualify down the road for this discount. Maybe she is afraid of older age?

The coworker who goes for the mail every day offered to get my sandwich, as she wanted to buy herself lunch that day. She told me that she would be happy to pick up my senior meal on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as long as I phoned the order ahead so she did not have to wait. That's what I did, and the arrangement initially worked well.

However, flies always seem to land in the honey. A few weeks later she came back from her jaunt to the post office and the creamery. She was chuckling to herself, and she informed me that the proprietor had told her that a senior could bring one guest who would then qualify for the meal at senior price. Since my coworker picked up my meal for me, she could have senior lunch at the senior rate as well.

This news spread like lice through the office. All of a sudden, everyone with the exception of the woman who found it horrifying to ask for a senior meal, wanted to get my lunch for me on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I briefly considered posting a signup sheet in our lunchroom and charging two dollars for the privilege of being my guest – that $2 plus the $3 for their meal would STILL cost them less than regular price. However, I'm a nice guy, so I abandoned that idea. Instead I offered to rotate through the office with anyone interested in being my guest on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

This of course caused delivery problems. The coworker who had brought me lunch now refused to do it if she couldn't be a guest, or if she did agree to pick up lunch for me and my guest of the day, she did it grudgingly and let all of us know what a chore it had become and what a favor she had done for us. So, whoever was my guest for the day went to the creamery and picked up our lunches. It worked, but the muttering and grumbling among a few people got tiresome, and by the time spring came, along with the discontinuation of senior meals for the summer, I was greatly relieved and decided I would handle it differently this year, which I have.

Several key factors have changed this winter in regards to the senior lunch program. This year, the creamery serves senior lunches on Tuesdays and the Virginia City café serves them on Thursdays. My husband now lives here permanently (last winter he traveled back and forth every few weeks from Crane to VC as we had a house to maintain and sell in Crane that he needed to attend to). He enjoys attending the Thursday senior meals at the cafe. Plus, the guest portion of the senior program has gone the way of the wooly mammoth, so coworkers' interest in regularly ordering take-out on Tuesdays or Thursdays died a quick death.

So I have changed my tactics. If I want a senior meal on Tuesday from the creamery, I bribe the lady who goes for the mail; that same lady who complained last year when other colleagues suddenly wanted to participate in the senior program. A meal from the creamery consists of a sandwich, chips, drink, and a scoop of ice cream. I don't eat chips and I can happily forego a drink, so my coworker gets my chips and my drink in exchange for picking up a senior meal for me. This keeps her placated to the extent that she rarely complains about the added task, even though the creamery sits next door to the post office.

On Thursdays, my husband brings my senior meal. He goes to the café, visits with other oldsters and enjoys his meal, then he buys a second lunch to go and brings it out to the office for me so I can eat at my desk. It works well, far better than last year when the guest aspect of the program nearly derailed my opportunity to enjoy a simple, tasty meal that I did not have to cook and that cost me next to nothing. Yes, I know, part of the reason for the senior program is to get seniors out and about, visiting with friends and neighbors in efforts to keep loneliness and depression at bay. Eating by oneself at one's place of work does not quite fit the entire purpose of the program, but I do get a nutritious meal and this works for me. Besides, when I saw how some people behaved over an almost-free lunch, it cooled my desire to sit and visit.

Maybe by the time I'm 90 I will find I can retire from work. In that case, I will gladly sit down with other people of my generation and enjoy my food in a social setting. Until then, however, I intend to enjoy senior meals in whatever way I can. I appreciate the program, the idea behind it, and I intend to take advantage of this service whenever possible.


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