NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 16, 2013

No filling station for old men

Awed by the stylish design of my employer’s new van, the young attendant leans into the window for a look at the dash as soon as he puts the nozzle into the tank.

I keep nodding and saying “uh-huh,” agreeing that I’m lucky to have so many bells and whistles, some of which I’ll never use or even know what they are.

But he dwells on one — an outlet for ear-pods or headphones — that will allow me to “crank up the tunes and let the miles fly by.”

For this he won’t take a simple yes for an answer. I try deflecting his good-natured prods with self-deprecation:

“I’m too old for that.”

“Don’t you listen to music?”

“Yes, but nothing I want to plug myself into.”

“But this’ll shut out everything else.”

“Such as what? Sirens? Motorcycles? Some other driver or pedestrian needing my attention?”

So exuberant is he over what he considers my new fringe benefit that deadpan jokes are lost on him. I ignore his next few sallies.

Perhaps he recalls my crack about being old when he urges me to imagine Beethoven without the roar of Firestones on 495, the brakes and horns on 128, the bang and clang of loading docks in the North End.

Oh, it’s tempting! Which may be why I finally turn toward him, our faces a foot apart. Still, I hold my tongue until he grins, “Why not?”

“Because I’m better than that.”

He lurches so quickly back that anyone present may think I shoved him. The grin melts into amazement, then protest:

“What? You’re saying that I (expletive) because — “

“Wasn’t about you. Was you kept talking about me.”

When he stands speechless, I can’t help myself:

“What about you? Can you tell me how many justices sit on the Supreme Court?”

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