She was sitting in an airport bar in a midwestern city, drinking cocktails at four in the afternoon. Does this sound like the start of a seedy novel? I sat on the next stool and ordered some fizzy water, found the free wifi and began to idly browse websites. With an eye to potential business, the owner started handing out free squares of ‘artisan’ pizza. We both took a piece and started talking.
It turned out this lady, let’s call her Mary, was on her way back east to see her father. Old age had eventually triumphed over the 93 year old marathon-running fisherman and he was nearing the end of his long and eventful life. The family was gathering in Boston and she was worried she might be too late. I bought her another glass of something pink and fruity and kept her company with a Pinot Noir. “Let’s talk about the old days,” I said. “He sounds a great guy, tell me what he was like as a father…”
I did very little, I’m not seeking praise. My background as a journalist makes it easy to ‘interview’ people in an unobtrusive way. But it’s more than just a professional knack most of the time. I like to talk to those I meet along the way, probably because I live alone and can choose when I want to be sociable. After ten minutes or so, Mary looked at her watch, downed her glass and headed off to the gate. I hope she made it in time. I paid the bill. Someday soon, I’ll be needing the kindness of strangers as loved ones around the world become frailer. Hopefully someone will be there for me.