Posted by: wordofexcellence | May 9, 2011

A Chance Encounter with a Nice Man

I met a 92 year old man today.

I stopped in at CVS to pick up a pint of ice cream and to use my Extra Buck in payment.  While standing in line behind a couple of ladies, a man to the right was fussing that he couldn’t find his keys.  The lady in front of me stooped down and looked on the floor near him, and in the candy section that fronts the registers in the store.  There was no sign of the keys.

The man kept flipping through his pants pockets and repeating, “I can’t find my keys.” The clerk behind the counter was nowhere near as frazzled as he was – in fact, she looked a bit unaware, and maybe even uncaring. I pondered why that could be, and I also perused the candy section, just in case the keys might have dropped into one of the boxes.  Of course, I saw no evidence of the keys.

I wondered if they might be lying in the bag that the man had, which contained his purchase, whatever that had been. He flapped the bag a few times, looked inside and failed to find the keys.

After a little while, he said, “I gave them to you, remember?” It was clear that this question was directed to the aforementioned clerk, who failed to respond. In the next few minutes, the man repeated that phrase – “I gave them to you” – to no avail.

The young lady behind the counter began to move away from her station, appearing to be headed to the line where the man stood in an effort to assist him in the search.  As she left the register area, another customer asked a question of her. I watched, mildly interested, as she and that customer began walking in the opposite direction of the registers and the candy section.  At that point, I considered that her behavior was, to me, inappropriate; that she ought to be of assistance to the man.

Her absence was brief, and in a flash she was back behind the counter.  The man reiterated, “I gave them to you,” and she seemed not to give it much credence. I was called to the counter to transact my business, and as I completed that, I spied the man with his keys in his hand.

He’d been correct – “I gave them to you” was not the plaintive cry of an addled old man, but the factual happenstance.  I didn’t notice what else transpired in the handing over of the keys, though I heard him thank her.

He left, and he was immediately in front of me as I left as well.  Outside, I sidled up to him and told him I was pleased to know that she’d found the keys for him. That’s when he told me he was 92.  He certainly didn’t look his age, nor did he act his age.  That was clear from the scene inside CVS; his spry mind was far quicker than the young lady’s, and he’d been correct throughout the search that she was still in possession of the precious keys.

As we moved forward to our respective vehicles, he also told me about his family members, who all seem to have lived well into their 90s. Longevity is obviously a family trait, and somehow I have a suspicion that those family members were quick-witted right up the point of the close of the coffin.

We didn’t share names – casual acquaintances seldom do – but our encounter was enriching to me. As we bid each other farewell, he slipped into his late-model Camry, which was in good shape, as was he.

Meeting him was certainly something that was meant for me to do. He gave me a smile that I might not have had otherwise; he provided me with a bit of wisdom and an experience that I might not have the opportunity to witness again.

I declare that the simplest things in our lives are often the most enriching.

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