Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Youthful Surprise

I went into the market on Chestnut Street in the Marina District of San Francisco, across from the Presidio movie theater. It was dark, near closing time. The check-out man, young with a sweet but haggard face, was seemingly tired. I approached the counter with my box of bran cereal, two apples, two bananas and a 20 oz. bottle of diet Seven-up...my usual purchase when I visit SF to conduct a seminar. He indirectly glanced up at me, then stared down at my items, mechanically began to swipe them across the computer window. I said: "How are you tonight?" He looked up at me, startled. After a long beat and a slight smile, he said: "You're feeling good tonight." "Yes," I said. "I am."

I registered how his whole being turned startled, surprised almost.

'Maybe he knew me,' I thought? I decided 'no'. I had not seen him before. His reaction was something else. Perhaps he assumed in his indirect, bare glance up at me that I was another typical old man; grumpy; perhaps needy and demanding? Old people in that increasingly youngish neighborhood had gotten quieter and quieter, I noticed, almost apologetic, deferential, obsequious when dealing with youth. Perhas it was the source of their grumpiness and aloofness. Was my full-voiced, positive greeting startlingly and pleasantly fresh?

"Thank you," I said.

"Thank you," he said. He smiled at me. I exited. I didn't look back. I knew he was looking after me.

The night air felt particularly good. A bounce evidenced itself in my step. I felt I belonged in the neighborhood; happy to be alive.


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