The bench


I moved into this hotel on University Avenue back in 1982.  I was 26 and most of the people who lived there at the time were elderly.  These old men and old women often hung out during the day on this bench in the lobby.  When I’d pass them and overhear them talking, it seemed like their primary subject of conversation was their health, their many body ailments.  “Ahh, my arthritis has been acting up lately.” . . . “You think THAT’S bad, let me tell you about my kidneys!” . . . “I’m seeing the doctor about my hip replacement on Tuesday.”  . . . Etc.

I’ve been thinking about them lately, now that my eye surgery has become my primary conversational gambit the last 3 months.

Over the years, all the little old people in the lobby would disappear one by one.  By the time I moved out in 1995 they were pretty much all gone and I was now one of the older people in the building.  I guess that’s just how it works.  I missed seeing them there on the bench.   Old people can be pretty cute.  In a way, they turn into cartoon characters as they age, in the way that they grow into exaggerated caricatures of themselves.  Plus, there’s something basically harmless about old people, and that’s kind of endearing.

I remember this one little old lady who’s face was set in a permanent sneer, this sort of sour look of disapproval like she was sucking on lemons all day long.  Then there was this other old guy who always looked just-happy-to-be-there. Like he was savoring every moment he had left, like it was all gravy. The oldsters seemed to go in one direction or the other.  Bitterness-at-how-it-all-turned-out.  Or WHOOPIE-I-could-give-a-flying-fuck-I’m-gonna-be-dead-soon-so-who-cares!

I’ll always remember this one goofy sight.  There was this one respectable-looking little old guy in his 80s who used to hang out on the bench all the time.   He was sort of a pear-shaped little duffer with this little pot-belly, sort of a Mr. Peabody type.  Anyways, this one day he was sitting there on the bench wearing, of all things, this black, sleeve-less, David Bowe t-shirt.  This glam-rock photo of David Bowie’s face on the front of the shirt.  It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  It was so incongruious.  I highly doubt he even knew who David Bowie was.  It was probably the last clean shirt in his closet, and who knows how he got it.  But why NOT wear it?  I hope when I’m 80 I don’t give a fuck either.


3 thoughts on “The bench

  1. I often say by now I’m gonna be the old guy yelling at the kids on my lawn- it’s seems like yesterday I was the kid!

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