Yesterday I sat with a young man - in comparison to me that is - at a bar for a quick drink. My shout. It was a "thank you" for shifting a rather large motley couch which, I bought off an on-line auction. It's not a pretty couch but it has history - lots of it, so it would seem; oozing out of every historical stitch like a cloud of relentless dust. But at $21 dollars, who can complain right?
This young man, whom I shall call Dave, could very well be my son - in age, that is. He's tall, slightly tanned, and, when he gets talking, is surprisingly knowledgeable about all things old. He proved it when a short old geezer turned up. At first glance, this man looked to have frequented this establishment on a very regular basis - the lines on his face spoke of years filled with anguish yet he was finely dressed in a cream suit, matching shoes, and a swish forward hairstyle - that too one of his lasting habits, so it would seem. He spoke to the floor mainly as his false teeth struggled to release words and his left hand was missing two fingers - a slight infection was creeping in and it distracted me.
"I tried to sell come Enid Blyton books on-line once," he explained. "Waste of time. No one respects the classics any more. They're hardback and all."
I looked at Dave and waited for him to give me the sign - the one that said, we should move tables, away from this drunken oldie who didn't look like he was going to shut up any time soon. But it never came. Instead, he engaged in conversation with him like he was some long lost uncle. They talked about old books, the word 'gollywog' and 'blacks' came up (again, I looked at Dave, a strikingly handsome Maori boy, for hints of offence and again, nothing.)
"There were four pakeha kids in my school when I grew up," the old man said, "we never knew anything about racism in them days. We were just kids, together, growing up you know?"
Dave smiled. "Yep, know what you mean eh bro, it's all changed now, for sure man."
I sat and listened to these two men engage in a conversation that knew no age. To me, they looked like two mighty bookends supporting an entire history between them. Sure, they were at opposite ends from each other but that was only because of age. What bound their conversation together so nicely was the subject matters that stood between them and in that, there was no comparison to be seen, nothing but a genuine expression of mutual respect.
It was nice seeing this because too often we see the 'young ones' parade around the country as if the world owes them a living, as if their life is the hardest. So often they show no respect for those that went before them like the old geezers in pubs on a Saturday afternoon. The young ones are too busy getting prepared for taking over that same pub later that evening, and I bet my bottom dollar, most of them will not be so finely dressed or talk about subjects outside themselves.
It was nice to see...for a change.