Lunch Story

This one comes to the Smithy from my friend, fellow miscreant, and sometime roommate Aaron Roth. I deemed it worthy.

* * *

I had an interesting lunch today. Let me tell you about it.

I wanted to get the oil changed in my car so I went over to the Honda place near my office. I dropped the car off and walked to McD’s which was just 100 feet up the hill a bit. I sat down ate my chicken Caesar salad and finished reading this academy of cognitive therapy newsletter. While that is interesting enough, it gets better.

I noticed an older gentlemen had taken up residence at the table near me and was eating by himself. I felt prompted to go and have a conversation with him because I feel like no one should eat alone. I didn’t really want to, but like I said, I felt prompted.

I refilled my water and sat back down to grab my stuff and I walked over to his table and asked “Are you waiting for anyone?” He said “no,” so I said “Do you mind if I join you?” He said “ok.” He was concentrating on eating his food and so he wasn’t responding much to my general questions about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and I began to think this was a short-lived idea. After a few Richmond questions I did ask him if he went to church. He said “No. Why, are you Mormon?” I laughed cause I thought that was pretty funny. He then responded “Oh, well that’s ok; I have a few in my family that are Mormon.” I asked the other small talk questions to him, one being “What have you been up to since you retired.” to which he responded “Staying alive.” I liked this guy.

So the conversation was pretty general and I thought I should probably get going and I said to him, “Well, I should probably go back and get my car.” But then he started to open up and went into how this was the first thing he’s eaten in two days. He wasn’t homeless or anything so I wondered why he had said it. He told me that he had to get some blood work done so he couldn’t eat or drink anything. He spoke with such distaste toward the process so I thought I’d cheer him up by laughing with him about those “silly medical procedures these days.” I learned he takes pills in the morning and in the evening, everyday.

I started to see how much this guy reminded me of grandpa. He really looked like Albert, actually. I learned that this man’s name was Dan, 78 years old, worked for the City of Richmond and retired about 17 years ago and now works part time at the club house in his neighborhood. We found out that we both liked barbeque, North Carolina barbeque, which has more of a vinegar taste than Virginia bbq. The reason he knows that is that he grew up outside of Raleigh which is the “South” and apparently Virginia isn’t the South, and even Richmond is much more of a “Northern city.” I’ve heard this before from southerners, and I have a hard time believing it because at one time Richmond was the capitol of the Confederacy. Dan said that was true too, and he remarked that they might soon take down some of those “Southern” monuments on Monument Avenue before too long because of the problems with the emphasis on the racial aspects of the confederacy and the Civil War.

He asked me what I did, I told him Marketing. He said, “that’s where the real money is.” I said that I hoped so, because I work at an accounting firm where the CPA’s make a ton more than we do. He laughed about the CPA firm stuff. He said he took an accounting class in college and hated it. (See, me and Dan have so much in common now). I told him an accounting joke which he laughed and smiled. I noticed he started smiling more. From the overhead speakers, I also heard the song “Land Down Under” which is the same song Tim and I sang at karaoke Thursday night. Weird, it was like I was meant to be here.

He elaborated on why he thought there was so much money in Marketing. His neighbor has a son who works in Austin, Texas for a big marketing/advertising company and they fly him around the world. He was just in Tokyo recently. Dan’s convinced that’s the best job there is, well, next to Baseball Players (who get paid too much.) Dan’s brother is a CPA and we both talked about “How could anybody enjoy doing Income Taxes” but apparently Dan’s brother does.

So it was really time for me to pick up my car so I told him I had to leave and that it was nice talking with him. He remarked that he thought I was a salesman trying to sell him something. He said people are always calling him telling him he won something or that his warranty for his car is over. He slams down the phone when he hears the pitch, or (and this is my favorite) he asks them for their name, social security number, and credit card number (’cause that’s what they want from him, so he might as well try to get it from them.) They usually hang up when he does that. How clever!

I said “No, I’m just from a small town and we talk to people we don’t know cause that’s what people in small towns do.” I put the pieces together now. Quite possibly when I was about to leave earlier to go pick up my car, he saw that I was just a regular guy and began to open up about why he hadn’t eaten in two days. My guess is that when he figured out that I wasn’t trying to convert him – being a Mormon, or trying to sell him something – salesman he felt like it was safe enough to just talk about life and experience.

I told him that I enjoyed the conversation and I thanked him for keeping me company while I was here by myself. And I think he felt that way too. You should have seen how much he was smiling by the end of it. It’s like he and I were friends now, with just a few years to separate us. As far as I’m concerned we might as well be friends: we both like barbeque, think baseball players get paid to much, are confused by accounting, don’t like Mormons trying to convert us and get annoyed with salespeople and deal with them in clever ways. That’s just bout all you need to be friends.

I closed the conversation and stood up. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and I picked up my things and headed out of McD’s. As I was walked back to get my car, I thought to myself how glad I was that Dan and I didn’t have to eat alone today.

Maybe I’ll try this again.

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