The kind old man I met this morning on my flight from Portland to Phoenix could have been my grandfather.
I feel as though somewhere over northern Nevada he struck up our conversation - in the way that clever kind old men do, with stories that make the young men curious for rabbit trail details.
He told me stories of his rotor balancing business and the way he was excited to be passing down his company to his children. How he stayed competitive with his company by only buying Western hemisphere supplies, and being at the top of his field. We talked about politics, china, the gulf, and the world view, and when I spoke about my thoughts on things he listened intently and waited for me to finish, never cutting in. I cut in quite a bit, and as I write - realize that I have much to learn about how to be an old man, should by God’s grace I someday become one.
We talked about sailing. He told me about how in 1981 he had spent a week in the Caribbean on a 55 foot schooner with some of his friends but he didn’t enjoy it because everyone knew how to man the boat except for him. All he could do was drink cocktails and beer, so since he resolved not to be useless - after his trip he picked up racing motor boats.
42, that’s how many cars he has. He told me that he had just bought his last one and that his son had been on his case about having so many. I asked him where he kept them all and which was his favorite, The GT he just bought was his favorite “Why?” “Because the price was right.” “What was it?” “19 thousand for the car, 421 for the work.” “Deal, Did you send it to china or what?” “No, I sent it to my guy down the street from the ranch.” “Fair.” “Yeah it was totaled, I fixed it.”
His wife sometimes hosted pool parties for her dog and the dogs of her friends. He didn’t seem to mind and said of them that the parties were just excuses to sip wine and drink cocktails.
Our pilot cut in over the intercom announcing the planes descent, our conversation slowed. We started to talk intermittently about how his friend wanted him to buy some 700 thousand dollar house on the edge of a golf course with an olympic sized swimming pool and two bungalows - he told her he would have bought it but he didn’t live in the state. “You know there are a lot of people in Arizona that dress just like me and you - got more money in their front pockets than most people make in a lifetime.” I listened on.
At the terminal the flight doors opened to a chorus of people eagerly getting up out of faux leather seats, letting fly overhead bins, and crowding into the intimate airplane walkway. We sat there waiting, knowing it was of no use to rush. I turned to my new old friend: “Manasseh,” “Oh!” he shook my hand “Ralph.” his hand was a lot bigger than mine “it’s nice meeting you Ralph.” he smiled.
After that we were quiet, eventually rows exited and ours became open, upon grabbing my bag overhead I turned to Ralph and said goodbye, he nodded, and I walked off the plane without looking back.