Monday, August 08, 2005

Howdy Stranger


Met my friend Chris for coffee this morning at Borders Books. We like to meet there because no one seems to care that we sit for hours and just talk. We usually end up buying books before we leave anyway.

Today we got our coffee and had just sat down to start our visit, when an old guy walked up. He asked us if we wanted a free ticket. "Sure!" Chris said. Then she cocked her head and said, "A free ticket to what?"

He handed her the ticket. It said (well, it didn't say anything you had to read it)
Free Ticket. It's not good for anything. It's just free.

We laughed, which encouraged the old gentleman to stand and talk to us a little. He said, "I'm Bill."

Chris said, "I'm Chris."

I said, "I'm TLP." ('Course I didn't say TLP, but you get the idea.)

Bill said, "My parents named me Bill because I came at the end of the month." It was all downhill from there. Bill was wearing a baseball-style cap with "U.S.S. Miami" written on it. He had served on this ship in 1943 and recently attended a reunion of the men who served with him in WWII. We heard all about that, plus a recently family reunion. Like that. Bill pulled up a chair. Uh oh.

Bill grew up in the soft coal regions of Clearfield County. Soft coal is bituminous coal. The hard coal is anthracite. He lived in Morris Township, and worked in Philipsburg. Philipsburg with one "L." There's a Phillipsburg VA, which has two "L's" according to Bill. You see the kind of interesting stuff we learned from Bill.

He had a car in the 1940's. Not so many folks had cars then. Gave rides to the girls who lived in Morris and also worked in Philipsburg. One girl that he called Willa - he called her Willa on accounta that was her name - one day Willa said to him, "Bill, there's three kinds of turds in this world. There's musturd, there's custurd, and there's you, ya dumb shit!" That Bill.

After an hour, yes, damnitall, an hour, of this, Chris and I both felt we had done our good deed for the day by letting this lonely 80-year-old man have someone to talk at. We're exchanging eye-rolls and meaningful face-twitches, trying to send each other telepathic messages as to how to get rid of this guy. Not to be unfriendly about it or anything. Tryin' to be nice. Tryin' to get the heck outta listenin' to more of sweet ol' Bill. It's a balancing act to be sure.

Chris spots a man bringing coffee to a table a ways behind me. Her face gets brighter. She gets a big shit-eatin' grin.

"I bet that fellow over there would like a 'Free Ticket,' Bill." Sure enough, Bill gets up and trots over to give this poor soul a free ticket. Tagged him! Chris moves faster than Chris can actually move and picks up Bill's coffee cup and bag of books and takes them over to where Bill is now standing. She smiles sweetly and says, "You don't want your coffee to get cold while you're over here talking to this gentleman!" That Chris.

Chris had told me on the phone that she had brought a bazillion jigsaw puzzles for me to distribute to the various places where I do volunteer work. The low-income senior center, etc. Like that. I'm going to confess to you that I never knew precisely what a bazillion is. Turns out to be exactly 72.

Seventy-two big jigsaw puzzles take up more room than you might think. My Honda is full. Didn't want to bother bringing them into the house just to take them back out to the car tomorrow, so I left them in there for tonight. Everything will be fine unless the husband has a heart attack or something like that during the night. Then he'll just have to call a cab. No room for him in the car. Or he could drive himself.

I'm flexible.

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13 comments:

schnoodlepooh said...

Bill sounds like he was quite an entertaining fellow and it sounds like you made his day.

Jamie Dawn said...

Seems like maybe you're a people magnet like I am. Not just any people... people like Bill kind of people. I get cornered in Wal-Mart all the time by these people. What's with us? Easy targets, I guess.

GodlessMom said...

I know Bill, only I call him Daddy! My father is exactly the same way and at 86 people are usually are good enough to listen to him talk. He is surrounded my women in his real life so he usually corners men. I think it is just a desire to connect with someone who doesn't bore him!

You did a good thing!

AP3 said...

Yeah, TLP, I think you attract 'em! I'm sure he enjoyed the chat.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Sounds like some beautiful light shone for you on Monday.

I love that Bill joke, by the way.

Hope you have a good day today as well.

mireille said...

glad you're flexible. and that niks brainy smurf (hah!)knows the number to the cab co. xoxoxo m

Doug said...

I'd say more funny than flexible. You got a microphone on that there PC?

Mu said...

TLP, thank you for your recent blog about Nivek. How amazing that you could write that story, "My Son, My Son." You are a gifted writer...as evidenced by the Bill story as well.

You know you are in my thoughts, and that I am so sorry for your loss and pain.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Or maybe you could get Bill to drive. You. To. Drink.

Libby said...

TLP....you have to realize you did a wonderful thing for bill! people don't realize how much it means to be listened to when they're older...
BoUnCeS!! LibbY!

Scott W said...

Perfectly charming story. You are a clever writer. I will be visiting regurarly from now on.

Tom & Icy said...

I've run into humans like that who just keep wanting to pet and wallow me, woof! I liked it when I was a pup, but just a few pats now that I'm old.

Fred said...

Bill was quite the guy!

I'll let my math colleagues know that you've discovered the true meaning of a bazillion.

I wonder what a cajillion would be?