At first I thought it was my eyes. You know, spots that become bugs, which then become an army of ants marching across your vision. But no, it was not early onset glaucoma. It was the march of the asterisks.*
Asterisks probably began as poor cousins to the footnote. The dignified footnote required a raised number, author, page, publisher, and sometimes little Latin words such as Ovum and Ibid. An asterisk just said, “See below,” plain and simple. But asterisks served a purpose in drawing your attention to some small bit of information that you needed to know. Such as the study the author just cited was based on 5 people living in Elbonia.
But the subdued asterisk has now become a hidden enemy. The little asterisk on top now leads to text that redefines whatever it was that you read in the first place.
It started with the senior discounts. A hotel brochure shouting Special Senior Price on top had an asterisk that led to a smaller asterisk on the back of the brochure. Here the asterisk revealed that the discount was only good on Monday through Thursday, unless the Monday was an odd number. A second asterisk note said that senior amenities did not include shampoo or towels but did include one plastic cup. Wrapping not included.
After this discovery, I began noticing more and more of the little star-like creatures. The drug price listing screamed “Seniors! $4 drugs! But then there was the asterisk. I followed it to the bottom, where in small type it told me that the $4 drug price did not apply to pills packaged in foil, pills I might want to cut in half, pills taken twice a day, red pills, pills that wanted to be red, and pink pills posing as red pills – in fact any pill that was not white, round, and generic.
Next, I turned to restaurant coupons. First off, it seems to me the coupons themselves are now getting smaller along with the type size used on them. And right beside the price on those small coupons with the small type I found a small asterisk. It said that the second meal, which was “free,” not only had to be of a lesser value than the first meal ordered, but that meals with meat, chicken or anything green were excluded. And that if a doggie bag was provided for either of the meals, the price of the bag would be added to the total food bill. Drinks, of course, not included.
The movie theater senior discount also looked promising until I read the asterisk note. The $5 off price for seniors was available only for the first two rows at the noon showing. And you had to sign a release for any neck injuries you might get.
Being an experienced asterisk reader, I immediately noticed one on the cruise booklet right next to the words Senior Cabin Special. It led to the last page where the asterisk note stated that the cabin was on the lowest ship level, opposite the engine room entrance. On the plus side, the room did come with a twin bed and mattress. Sheets, of course, not included.
*If you’re stopping to read this asterisk, you must be a geezer!