Sometimes simply taking in a bit of sun is what life is all about. Photo / Bevan Conley
The other day, after limping to the bank with a sore knee, I came across a bloke who really put life into perspective.
He also managed to put a smile on the faces
of three others in the queue with me, and this in turn resulted in an impromptu display of good-natured compassion and kindness not often seen these days.
So, let me explain. First of all I’m driving to the bank and I’m listening to the radio news. And it’s all economic catastrophe, more crime, overseas war and rain on the way. Again.
Am I the only one who doesn’t find it all grinding me down a bit? And to make matters worse, my dodgy knee has gone again and so every step I take towards my destination is accompanied by a little stab of pain.
It’s not enough to warrant a major operation you understand, and I know it will eventually settle down, but right now, on top of all this other terrible stuff that’s going on — plus the fact I put petrol in my diesel ute the other day and it cost a bomb to get it sorted — I’m in a bit of a grumpy mood.
And that’s when I met the bloke who’d obviously seen it all before and really didn’t seem that bothered. As you know, I visit my bank every week to get some cash for golf on Sunday and have a chat with the fine folk who put up with tech idiots like me.
On this particular occasion, I’m at the head of the queue. Behind me is a bloke who I was to discover has just turned 65 and is sorting his pension payments, and behind him is a young guy of say 18 years in a hoodie clutching a baseball cap.
He has just acceded to a request from the security guard to remove the hoodie and the cap from his head without fuss. Up at the counter is an elderly gentleman going through some banking business or other. He has a younger, middle-aged support person with him.
Now, my bank is not particularly big so the tellers are probably 3m away from where I’m standing and the elderly chap has just been asked to supply his date of birth. “1918,” he says clearly and confidently. I feel I should point out I wasn’t intentionally listening in — I didn’t hear any of the day or month details — but when he said “1918″ my ears pricked up. Jeez. That would make him 104 years old, wouldn’t it? The teller continued: “And do you have a contact number?”
The chap sure did and confidently rattled off a long line of digits. He faltered a bit on the last two, but then explained he had a good excuse.
Apparently, the end of his phone number was very similar to the service number he had in the army 80-odd years ago and he had to stop and think for a minute. By this stage I was hugely impressed and turned to the chap behind me.
Luckily, he’d heard the same thing. “He’s doing well for 104,” he said. I had to agree.
The old bloke had a walking stick for a bit of support, but otherwise seemed sharp as a tack and relatively sprightly.
My new mate mentioned he’d just turned 65 and was feeling every minute of it lately. I nodded in agreement and said I now felt stupid about complaining of a sore knee. “They should give this bloke a benefit for reaching 100,” he said with a laugh.
Behind us, the young chap had heard our conversation and also inquired of the elder man’s birth date. You could see him doing the mental arithmetic. His eyes lit up in genuine surprise when he worked it out and he whispered an expletive common among his age group but unfit for consumption here when we nodded. What happened next was truly a delight.
Just a small one but enough to give you a good feeling and let you know you can’t pigeonhole all young hoodie and cap wearers as likely ratbags as some of us may have been guilty of doing from time to time.
As the elderly fellow walked away from the tellers, his supporter offering an arm, I felt obliged to greet him and let him know he had a team of admirers behind him in the queue. He smiled and thanked me as I went past him up to the counter.
Behind me, the 65-year-old was complimenting him on remembering his phone number. He made the old boy laugh when he said sometimes he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast let alone his phone number.
There ensued some brief conversation and then the support person mentioned the old fellow would be celebrating another birthday in a month.
At this news the young guy stepped forward, offered his hand and said: “Happy birthday. Sir”.
As I say, not a big moment, but one to warm the heart. My business done, I left the bank kind of wishing I’d taken the time to have a chat with the old guy.
What a life he must have led? What stories he must have to tell? As luck would have it he was sitting on a bench outside, eyes closed, enjoying a bit of sun on his face. I assume his support person had gone off to get the car or something.
I started to go over but decided against it once I saw the look on his face.
Eyes closed. Big smile. Face pointing up towards the sun. This guy had put things into perspective for me. It didn’t matter what was happening in the world, whether the economy was crumbling or whether you had a sore knee. After 104 years on the planet it was all about enjoying the simpler things in life. And who was I to interrupt an old man taking in a bit of sun.