“Mind if I see your ID?” I asked the fellow who was buying beer at the checkout line.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t get asked that much anymore.”
“You look young to me, sir,” I said.
“Thanks.” He pulled off his face mask to show me a goatee with a sprinkling of gray.
“This gives me away,” He said, “shows I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Looks, good on you sir,” I said. “When my beard got gray around the chin, it made people think of the old family dog they didn’t have the heart to put down.”
“And of course, now….” I said, and pulled down my mask to show him my full, gray beard… “I’m trying to feel bad for you, sir,”
He laughed as he left, feeling better about his face, I hope.
The other day, a customer asked me:
“Be honest. Did you grow your beard because of the Covid virus?”
“No, I grew it to get girls.”
I didn’t really say that.
“No,” I said, “I grew it thirty-years ago to play Jesus in the church musical.”
“Aww,” said the man’s wife who was next to him.
I pulled my mask down to show them how gray it was now, and said, “These days, I could play Methuselah.”
“Or Abraham,” the man joked.
They gathered their groceries.
“Well, see ya later,… Abraham.” He joked.
“That’s Father Abraham,” I said.
When a customer is obviously closer to my age than those of my children, I’ll often smile and simply ask if they’re over twenty-one. Sometimes, the men will say, “I wish I were twenty-one again.”
“No, you don’t,” I’ll challenge in friendly fashion. “Do you remember what it was like when you were twenty-one…?
“When I was twenty-one,” I continue, “I was married, going to college, working two jobs, and I was nowhere near as smart as I thought I was.”
The customer usually takes on a reflective look, which suggests that he’s thinking back to that time in his life. And then he’ll nod as he remembers.
“You’re right,” he says. “I wouldn’t wanna go back.”
“I would be nice to have that kind of energy again, though.”
And we’ll both laugh as we realize that being older might not be so bad after all.
I was going to end at this point but last night I had a different encounter. Again, I challenged a man who insisted quietly that he really would like to be twenty-one again. I watched him go back to that time in his mind.
“I was married then,” he said, “and going to night school. It wasn’t so bad,”
His dreamy look suggested he was happy then and happy now as he reflected on that time. It made me little happier, too.