I left the house in a bad mood. Late taking my son to a friend’s Bar Mitvah, on top of a poor night’s sleep due to work pressures, combined with heartburn I’ve been experiencing recently. Little did I know my mood was soon to change.
In retrospect the first crack in my bad humor came when my son tuned our satellite radio to the “Classic Vinyl” station, just in time for the start of Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like I Do”. A “one-album-wonder rock icon of my generation”, I told my son.
We were late for the ceremony, and I admit to be speeding, but we had to stop to get a Bar Mitvah card. I left my son in the car, and I sprinted into Rite-Aid, not a second to spare. I grabbed a card (thoughtlessly) and ran to the register. It was there I encountered the ever-present, dreaded Rite Aid queue.
In front of me were two customers. One, a man who was very old with a case of Budweiser, and another, a 6’4″ tough-guy in camouflage shorts who looked like a 45 year old middle linebacker. In my mind I thought to myself, what is this older man doing with a case of Bud? He’s holding me up! I’m late! He pays, and can barely lift the case back into his cart. I think to myself, how will he get this in his car? And I also think to myself, I am in a hurry and I can’t worry about that. I really can’t. I…don’t…have…time to help.
The linebacker gets to the register, and what does he want? 4 packs of cigarettes! I’m being held up by this guy buying tobacco products that are going to kill him one day? Hurry up!
During my turn at the register, I see the linebacker hurry over to the older man before he got out the door, saying “let me help you with that”. Guilt began to run through my veins. Then I heard the older man say, “I used to be able to pick up a house, now I can’t even pick this up”. The linebacker replied, “how old are you?”. “95”, the man said. The younger man said, “well, you are alive, right?”. The man laughed and said “yes, that’s right, I am!” Feelings of respect, heavily tinged with guilt, ran through my body.
Outside it just got better. In the back of the elderly man’s Camry there were 2 re-usable grocery bags, and the younger man put the older man’s bottles of beer into the 2 bags to make them easier to carry when the man got home. I saw that a few jokes were exchanged, some laughs, and a hearty “thank you” and then, “have a great day”. They left each other smiling.
I ran to my car in a different mood. When I climbed in, Peter Frampton was speaking into his guitar talkbox “…well go to bed and good night. Good night, good night, good night, good night, good night”. Danny said to me, “I have to get this song on iTunes, it’s awesome Dad!”. I looked over at my wonderful son just before putting the car into drive, and I noticed what I had failed to notice in the scramble to get out of the house. Dressed in a blue blazer, light blue shirt, a striped tie (which, it occurred to me, he tied all by himself!), and khaki’s, he looked stunningly handsome. How fortunate, I thought, to have this boy with me on this beautiful day.
Off we went to the Bar Mitvah where we arrived at 10:14 for a 10:15 start. As I was dropping him off I reminded him to turn the ringer off on his phone, told him how handsome he looked, gave him a hug, and made sure he knew that I loved him.
I drove off, and as I did I opened my sunroof, switched my stereo inputs from satellite radio to iPod, and put on Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.
Yes, it is. Thank you to the linebacker and elderly man who crossed my life’s path today, two strangers who unknowingly reminded me of the right way to be.