Conviviality

I met the nicest man this morning.

I had scheduled a service appointment for my car at the dealership very early. Little did I know that they are doing Major renovations there, like they literally have no showroom at the moment and are working from construction trailers. I only needed an oil change and tire rotation, but when I saw plywood and tarps and lots of hardhats I began to wonder if I should have simply gone elsewhere and paid out of pocket.

It became even more interesting when I told them that I planned to wait while the service was performed, yet I noticed the usual entrance to the waiting area was boarded over. The manager saw my glance, chuckled and said, “I’ll walk you to our waiting area.”

We left the building, walked all the way around the front, all the way down the side of their old showroom along temporary chain link fencing towards some of their back lots. I spotted a trailer and assumed that was the new ‘waiting area’ but no, we walked beyond that, and there tucked into a corner of the very back lot was a large tent lined with tables of coffee and water, and snacks, as well as the old black leather chairs from reception. A portable white picket fence enclosed some picnic tables and chairs. It was really rather ingenious. I wish I would have taken a picture to post, but I didn’t.

I sat down to read and the early morning sun shining on my neck was already warm. We are expecting 90+ degree weather for the next few days so my choice of an early appointment was genius. I think it would have been unbearable under that plastic tent by noon.

So, on to the gentleman. I noticed him as I made myself comfortable in a chair. He looked to be in his 70’s and was wandering the lot, looking at cars. A few other customers came into the area to wait, but you know how it is in waiting rooms of any kind. You always try to pick a chair well away from others if you can. It must be that whole personal space thing I guess. So when I saw the older man enter I assumed he was going to sit in one of the readily open spots.

Nope. He very purposefully strode toward my row of chairs. I was on the end, saw him and probably gave a courteous half smile while quickly realizing that he was quite clearly headed directly to the open chair right next to me. Even before he sat down he had started talking.

“Well, have you noticed that the Forester and the Outback are really about the same size now? When I was looking for my last car I compared the two and the Forester was just too small. I couldn’t get my wife’s wheelchair into it and the Outback seemed bigger. Now either one has gotten smaller or the other has gotten bigger I can’t tell which…”

I wrote the above with clear sentence structure and punctuation, but the reality is that all those words came out of him in one sentence. And then he kept going…off to another subject.

I think my mouth may have been hanging open a bit. I also believe I was in a little bit of shock. I’ve had people; men, sit down next to me and say a few words or make a small comment, or even strike up a short conversation, but I’ve never encountered anyone who came prepared to have a purposeful non-stop conversation like this man.

He wasn’t odd, or creepy, or pushy, or anything negative. He wasn’t an old fart who had the gold-chain lecher qualities either. He was clean, dressed casually but nicely, well-groomed and polite.

Within those first few seconds, as I took this scene in, I realized that he was a man much like a few dear old patients that used to routinely come into the office: older, intelligent, and lonely. It was clear that this was a man who was gregarious and someone who enjoyed conversation. It quickly became clear that he was very much alone and lonely. As he asked questions and we chatted a comment came out about his wife. In fact, he actually had to stop for a moment, almost to collect himself, before he noted that she was now “in a home.” I really was taken back to a few very special patients that we often suspected would come into the office with phantom tooth issues simply because they needed someone to talk with.

We spoke for perhaps 5 minutes, and then my phone rang with the technician telling me that my car was done. I gathered up my things, all the time he was still talking, and as I rose from the chair I gently touched his forearm, looked him in the eye, thanked him and told him that it had been a pleasure passing time with him while we both waited.

I meant those words very sincerely. He was an absolutely charming bright spot in my morning.

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