Yesterday, I met the most fascinating character at the Post Office. I was waiting for my number to be called when a small elderly man walked in, wearing a pair of those huge, plastic wraparound sunglasses (the kind you wear after eye surgeries or perhaps while welding). He sported a big smile and wondered aloud about the existentialism of getting the number "00."
"Hi there, young fella," he said.
I glanced around, making sure he was talking to me. "Hello."
"Windy day, today. And cold." He held up a package. "For my grandchild. In Chicago."
I nodded politely.
"Yep. We were supposed to fly out for Christmas, me and the wife, then she took ill. Just came from the hospital."
"Oh. Sorry to hear it," I said.
"Stroke. Third one in the past three years." He shook his head. "I just got out of the hospital a few weeks ago myself. Liver thing."
I didn't know what to say, so I kept my mouth shut.
"Wife wanted to make sure Bobby got this." He held up the package again and tapped it with a bony finger. "She worked in the White House, long time ago. Sharp as a tack. Now..."
I couldn't tell if he was tearing up through the dark shades. He must have spotted me staring. "Don't usually wear sunglasses inside, but..." He leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Got in a fight. Got a big shiner. Happened in the hospital lobby. Some young guy was disrespecting our country and I stood up to him. You shoulda seen his face when I was done with him. I served our country. Proudly. He had no right to insult what I fought for. Took two security guys to break us up. Not bad for an old guy."
A postal clerk called my number. I went to the counter and in a few minutes my business had been concluded. On my way out, I nodded goodbye to the old guy.
Sometimes it's a shame people don't really talk to strangers. The stories they could hear.