It doesn’t get old to me. It’s not everyone – it’s not like I go down the street and try to talk to every single person I meet. That would be ridiculous and probably creepy.
But when the situation happens, you know it. Where there’s this feeling internally that you kinda want to say something.
Like last week. I was sitting in a waiting room at a bank in rural Ohio waiting to talk with a great CEO.
I was early. I gave myself time in case I couldn’t find it, and turns out it was easy.
I noticed walking in there was a hover round chair outside. The back was decorated with a small American Flag and a bag for carrying things.
Inside, was an elderly gentleman of I’d guess his 80’s. Just sitting there. It was a perfect sunny fluffy cloud kind of day in early June so of course, weather was a perfect segway.
He couldn’t hear me. He pulled a headset out of his front pocket and it was attached to a box with a small microphone the size of a pack of cigarettes.
His smile was contagious, and his eyes were true. A kind man, you could tell from the start.
He told me his hearing aids were in the shop and he had this contraption to help get him through. I moved in closer so I could speak into the microphone.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I asked.
“OOh yes, the best kind.” he replied.
“Did you pull up on that cool looking chair out there?”
“You betcha. It’s how I get around these days. Don’t drive much.”
“Well I like it.”
A little silence, but he was engaged, waiting for another question.
“Have you always lived in this town?” I asked.
“It’s been a long time for sure, but not always. We moved here in 1962. Do you want to know the only right thing I’ve ever done?”
Intrigued, I said of course!
“I married the most wonderful woman named Miss Right. That was her name. Right.” Smiles, and chuckles. “I lost her 25 years ago and I still think of her every single day.”
My heart sank. How sad. Yet sweet. How do you recover that one?
“Oh I am so sorry she isn’t with you right now. How long were you married?”
Turns out, they were married young in their 20’s. He went on to tell me such fun stories. He met Bob Hope in Korea. Helped him quickly get in the tent when a storm came through.
When he was in transit to Korea, one of the pilots in Fairbank, Alaska (Where he had a lay over) assured him he’d love it there. He said there were more women than trees.
“I knew I was in trouble when we landed and I couldn’t find a tree anywhere.”
What a gem of a human being.
He didn’t get much schooling. Went til he was 16. But he was a learner. He worked in Ohio for the aviation companies and was a steel worker. He helped build the wings. And he also helped engineer better ones. In fact, he was told had he had more schooling he would have been able to take on the mechanical design of the plane. But he helped them and gave them lots of ideas and then built them.
“I’ve still got a pension from Boeing.” he declared with a wink.
Then, the best part. He got out his wallet to show me his Boeing card, and his drivers license. He was 99. He’ll be 100 on April 17, 2014.
I hope I can see him on the Smucker’s jar of the Today show and most importantly – I hope each and every person strikes up a conversation with a sweet person like him and feels as good as I do when it happens.
I love America and our history.