Lots of folks are lonely. They’ve been left behind by modernity. They’re too old to peck away at the portable devices. They wish life could be simple again.
On Monday, I’d been writing all day and hadn’t even left the house. I went to Wendy’s for supper because I didn’t want it to take much time, and I had a few coupons left. I got a dollar off a combo. I didn’t want to bring it back home, though. I took my time, and, when I got through, I took advantage of the free wi-fi and started perusing my Twitter feed.
Oh, about fifteen feet away, an elderly man, heavy set, sat alone in a booth. Once I glanced at him and noticed he was watching me. I didn’t pay much attention, kept rubbing the little screen with my index finger, taking in such compelling items as what Miley Cyrus was up to, and it looks like Will Muschamp is probably going to hold on to his job as football coach at Florida for at least another week, and how there’s a candidate for office in Massachusetts who actually didn’t exaggerate his military service. I read what I already knew, that the manager of the Kansas City Royals is quite a NASCAR fan, and that the country seems inclined to elect Republicans during the upcoming elections.
“Excuse me, sir …” It was the man in the booth. My first thought was that he needed a ride somewhere or wanted to know if I had any jumper cables.
“Are you from a long way away?” he asked.
I said, “No, matter of fact, I don’t live but a little over a mile away.”
“I be dogged. Just a mile away.”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “I was just catching up on what’s going on.”
“People sure do a lot with them cell phones,” he said.
“Yes, sir. That they do.”
“I live down off sixty-six,” he said. The highway out front was fifty-six.
“Whitmire,” he said.
“Well, sir, you know, I go through Whitmire fairly often on seventy-two, and I drive down to Joanna every now and then, but I don’t hardly ever drive from Joanna to Whitmire.”
“I reckon not,” he said, “you being from Clinton. How long you lived here?”
“Pretty much all my life.”
“You go to Clinton High School?”
“My wife was the librarian there for twenty-eight years.”
“Is that right? What’s her name.”
I didn’t recognize it. “She must have started after I’d left. That was … thirty-nine years ago.”
“She come after a black woman named Johnson.”
“That’s who ran the library when I was there,” I said.
I put my phone away, got up, picked up the tray, and said to the gentleman, “Well, I better be running along. It was nice to meet you, talk to you. Have a nice evening, sir.”
“You, too,” he said.
I don’t know his name. He doesn’t know mine. I’ll not likely see him again, though Whitmire isn’t too far away. In a city, the conversation would have seemed bizarre, but he wasn’t anything but lonely. He was probably studying me as I messed with that infernal iPhone.
He didn’t bother me. I was a little amused. People talk so little nowadays, it sends a little shiver through the system. I get frustrated at people who would rather text than talk, rather give me a 140-word glimpse into their souls than a conversation that would actually let me see a little of it. I might be frustrated, but I do it, too. Communication is on the rise. Content is on the fall. I doubt it’s made anybody more contented.
If I live long enough, I’ll get buried that way, too.
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