Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Good to See You Again
Going into the donut shop as usual last Saturday morning, I saw Les sitting at a table in the corner, reading a newspaper. Not surprising, given that the donut shop is across the street from the office complex we both occupied over a seven-year period.
Les is an accountant, and like me, he works erratic hours, so it was not unusual for us to run into each other on evenings or weekends, when the office was mostly deserted, and strike up a conversation. It’s been more than five years since I moved out of the office, but Les is still there — though apparently not for long.
After I picked up my donuts we got to talking, and it seems he’s about ready to ease into retirement, which would mean not being across the street from the donut shop on Saturday morning. We caught up on things for several minutes, and I had the opportunity to find out about his big step and to wish him well.
Leaving Matters to Chance
Afterwards I got to thinking about the sheer luck of the encounter. If I’d been there twenty minutes earlier or later, as I easily might have, I’d likely have missed him altogether. And if he retired and started getting to the donut shop less because he’s not coming to work on Saturday mornings, I might never have seen him again.
That chance encounter reminded me again of how fragile our human contacts are, and how easy it is for people to slip out of our lives and for us to slip out of theirs. We have very few people who are friends for life, but plenty of others could have been friends for longer than they were if only one of the parties had taken a bit more initiative to maintain contact.
Over the years I’ve tried to keep in touch with people and have probably been a bit above average in that regard. Several friends have told me that they appreciate my taking the initiative to get together for lunch or coffee because they often feel too swamped to make the move themselves. Even so, I’m far from perfect and hold numerous regrets about people I wish I’d called sooner and more often.
The Other Issues
Two weeks ago I turned 64, and while the indicators are good for my show running a while longer, I am becoming acutely aware of the fact that there’s a final curtain waiting out there — for both me and my friends. Staying in touch with people, and in some cases trying to rekindle friendships that burned out when the fire was neglected have to be priorities now.
Other issues arise from not seeing people in a while. I’ve been involved in the community for decades and know a large number of people at least somewhat, but I’m starting to find myself occasionally forgetting a name or mistaking one person for another. At a recent book-signing, I was mortified when I called a woman “Gwen,” when her name is Nita. I read in the Times that the reason older people are more forgetful owes less to brain malfunction than to the fact they have so much to remember. I really wish I could believe that — especially when the computer between my ears disconcertingly clicks on the wrong icon.
On the other hand I was recently reviewing some soon-to-be-public documents for a client and caught a misspelling in the name of a man known to almost everyone in town. So I suppose I still have a few marbles left, and as long as there’s even one, I can keep on playing. And inviting a friend to join me.