Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Bargeman

I stopped by Target on the way to work this morning, to pick up some last-minute supplies for the retreat I'm on this weekend (we're to wear, under our really sexy denim oxfords with the retreat logo stitched on the breast, a white t-shirt the first day, a blue t-shirt the second day, and a red t-shirt the third day. I had none. Well, at least none that are short sleeved and didn't have Corvette graphics plastered all over.). After I checked out with my new t-shirts and a couple bottles of laundry detergent for delicates, I headed over to the Starbucks kiosk. I stood in line behind two Catholic school girls in plaid skirts and a little old man in a plaid button-down and jeans, catching up on emails and texts on my phone. The girls finished with their order and left, giggling. The man turned to me and said, "I bet you're going to work after this." I smiled, "I am!" He said, "I understand people who have to go to work. Why don't you go first?" I tried to refuse, but he was having none of it. "I'm good," he said. "I just float around."

So I chatted with him while the barista made my drink. We talked about everything from his career to his early retirement to the news that the new iPhone 6s will bend if you put them in your back pocket and sit on them. "If I pay $500 for something, it better not bend! They made 'em too thin." Then we talked about the logic of carrying technology in one's back pocket, and how even the older, thicker phones wound up with pressure cracks in the screens after people sat on them.

He spent his whole career on the river, running barges. Until one day when an accident happened and he got caught between two barges and nearly lost his right eye. He didn't want to retire, but he had to. He's left-handed, and even though he puts most of his belongings in the pockets on the left side of his pants ("I put my billfold back here, and in front is all the other stuff…keys and change and the like.") he came up with a system where his ID and his medical information are in a smaller wallet in his right front pocket. "I don't need to get to it that often so it's fine there, and if someone steals my billfold, well, they might get a few bucks but they won't get my ID!" His big blue eyes sparkled.

I wanted to ditch the rest of the day and just sit there at Starbucks and talk to him, and write down his stories. He was absolutely charming. And he was a lovely reminder that everyone has a story worth telling.


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