Where This Meets That
My dad once joked after a school reunion that he found himself looking around the other attendees “wondering who all these ‘old people’ were.” Of course, they were my father’s one-time peers. Perhaps the occasion gave him a unique “outsider’s glimpse” at himself.
A month from now, I’ll turn 40. Aging has its ups and downs. Watching ourselves age mirror-glimpse by mirror-glimpse can disguise the degree of our, ahem, maturation. Sometimes, it takes others’ eyes to point out the obvious: we’re getting older, and not in all good ways. Having a sense of humor helps to numb the bite.
A few years ago, while visiting my wife’s parents in the small college town where we first met, I had the urge to drop in on my old fraternity. It was a weekend night, and we were out on a date with little else to do after dinner; like I said, small town.
As we approached up the walkway to the fraternity house, we startled a group of party-goers on the front porch, who must’ve thought someone’s parents had just shown up uninvited. They “hot-potatoed” us back to the fraternity’s apparent “designated level head”, and he led us through the “beach party” (the house was filled with sand) to hand us off to the chapter’s president on the back deck, who then gave an impressively coherent (albeit unrequested) rundown of all things dealing with the chapter.
I was just beginning to realize, wow, these are just kids! when one of them offered me a Bush Light beer and called my wife “Ma’am”.
That did it.
Christy hadn’t exactly cheerleaded my plan to drop in on a bunch of partying college kids, but after parading through a sand-filled fraternity house, being called “Ma’am” in such a “respect for elders” tone crossed that proverbial line in the sand. I thanked the brothers, told them to keep up the good work, and politely escorted my bride back to the car, praying that nobody else would call her “Ma’am” again.
We all have our moments when we are humbled to discover our youth fleeting.
A friend of mine cited a time when he had just finished an emotional, full-throated sing along to the climax of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” only to realize that stopped next to him at the red light was a convertible full of beautiful young ladies who’d probably never even heard the song. His window was down. They laughed hysterically as they drove off, and he crawled straight into a hole to die.
Another friend was tailgating at a college football game and discovered an attractive young miss approaching him, decked out in his favorite team’s attire. He steadied himself but couldn’t be ready for what she actually had to say: “Excuse me, sir, do you know the time?”
That “respect for elders” tone again.
My own such moment arose while receiving truly excellent customer service at our local O’Charley’s restaurant. O’Charley’s used to serve something they called “Ultimate Chocolate Cake”. It was seven layers of moist, rich chocolate goodness that became somewhat of a traditional treat for Christy and me to share on Sunday nights.
One particular instance, I made my way to the order counter and was helped by a very attractive server working the register. When she took my order, she sounded very excited and said that was her favorite, too. She then hushed her voice with an air of feigned conspiracy and asked if I wanted her to put some whip cream on it. I said yes and her enthusiasm climbed. She wrinkled her nose and playfully asked if I wanted her to top it with some mini-chocolate chips. Again, I said yes, and she gave a little squeal (yes, actually).
Then, she coyly asked, “Will you be sharing this with your wife?” When I said yes, she erupted, “Aw, that’s so sweet! It’s just like something MY dad would do!”
With that, she skittered off to prepare the order. I stood chuckling at two very different ways of viewing the world.