beating the system

one of the strangest things for me moving out of the US is my perception of the age of people around me. i've discovered that i am seriously lacking in this skill, and having relied too much on whether or not someone is able to drink to gauge if a person is "my age," i've gotten myself into some pretty awkward situations. it also doesn't help that i've been told i have a "younger look," which was confirmed when i was picked out of crowds and carded several times while living in NZ. where you need to be 18 to drink...

while i'm sure this will be a great thing when i'm in my 40s, it actually annoys me that people constantly are asking me where i am attending uni. "i ATTENDED uni at florida 5 YEARS AGO," would be a typical response. (level on emphasis depending in whether i've had a drink or not). the only time my youthful facade hasn't upset me is when i'm at the cashier at j.crew (student discount!), and i found that though i've been limiting my shopping, these discount benefits extend to many other areas in europe.

it all started when i arrived in paris, the city of love and incredibly expensive everything. i had taken one of my overnight buses and was incredibly grumpy, particularly when i discovered that i had no wifi and the mcdonald's in the station did not open for another 2.5 hours. it's ok. i've forgiven mcdonald's, as this lovely establishment has literally saved my life several times on this journey in several different ways. more of that later...

not knowing what to do, i decided i would get on a metro and head towards where i was meant to stay and hope for a coffee and/or wifi on the way. in the line, i overheard a group of students talking who had also just arrived on my bus. they were discussing different train ticket options and i realized i had been way overconfident arriving without having done any research. i must have been less stealth in my listening, because one of the guys noticed me listening and included me in their decision.

pretty soon i was being lumped into their decision to buy a day unlimited metro pass. i started to protest, until i realized that i was suddenly also being lumped into the fact that they were students and would be paying only 3.55€ for said all day pass. sold!

i assumed this may have been a one off situation since i was considered to be part of a group of people who were obviously students, some even sporting fraternity tshirts. still, i though i'd test my luck and try to buy another pass at the same rate the following day. nervously i approached the ticket window and asked for "especial ├ętudiant," which i'm sure is some combination of spanish, french, and portuguese or something. the guy merely asked me if i was under 26, which i answered with a lie, and there i was off again with my cheapo day pass.

i'd like to say that i felt really guilty, but it was sort of a thrill actually. like i was taking advantage of the system, and simultaneously making up for all those times my young face landed me giving my phone number to someone who was able to begin happy hour after the 3pm bell. so this behavior continued, and i received several discounts for public transport, attractions, and food across france and spain, and even two walking tours i've taken in london.

so that's how i beat the system and scammed all of europe out of money they might have deserved. hey, i've got some seriously repressed anger stemming from that time i was accused by the balloon man at ruby tuesday's of being a "too cool for a balloon" teenager. i was 19.

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