“Not me, no how, no way, no more, I’m retired” said the cap on his head. I heard him singing under his breath as he was shuffling down the hall before and after being seen by the doctor I was waiting for. I craned my neck to read it as my eyes were all gummed up with some preparatory poison before my laser surgery. I liked this guy’s vibe. I struck up a conversation with him. I told him I loved his hat. He had a slight Caribbean accent. Not sure which Island. Maybe St. Kitt’s. I knew some elderly people from St. Kitt’s and his accent reminded me of them. He said I was too young to wear it. I told him my age (62) and he was taken aback, but still told me I was a youngster. He then went on to tell me his life story about coming to Canada at age thirty, working for thirty years at the Queen E. (local slang for the Queen Elizabeth Hotel). “Always nights!” He said. He then told me he hasn’t worked for almost as long. Now, I am no mathematician, but that adds up to a lot of years. “I’m ninety-two!” he exclaimed. He then told me he had never eaten in a restaurant (despite being at a really swank hotel preparing food for others). I suggested that maybe that was what has been key to his longevity. That, or perhaps he knows something about restaurants that we don’t I added slyly. He said “No, I just prefer to do my own cooking.” He said scoffingly that people think they are getting fresh, but they use huge microwaves that give the impression of fresh. He then told me about a macaroni pie he had made the night before. “Obviously counting carbs” I wisecracked and he wisely ignored as he continued to list the ingredients and spices (lots of spices-cumin,paprika, mustard, and so on) he used and the loosely fitting tin foil cover in order to not have the pie stick. His macaroni pie had little bits of chicken that he had cut up the size of a fingertip. He showed me his 92 year old little fingertip to demonstrate.

—–Sidetrack—-“I didn’t call it a “pinkie” because years ago when I asked my good friend Charlie Biddle why he didn’t use his pinkie when playing the upright bass? He said “I don’t have one. Mine’s a Blackie!” I had never considered the subtle racial overtones of calling something by a name that could be offensive. Charlie wasn’t offended, but I became more aware.

Although they’d be the same age if Charlie were still  alive, my new friend didn’t remind me of Charlie so much as some of the church elders I have known. He gave off Good vibes. Kind vibes.

I hope that if I get thirty more on the planet like he has, that I walk down hallways singing, no matter what, and that I still take time to talk to strangers and never use up all the spices.

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