The other day I was sitting on a park bench drinking coffee and minding my own business, but my mug caught the attention of the guy sitting a few feet away (two metres away, I hoped.)
My mug has the lettering, GREATEST DAD IN THE GALAXY.
“Your kids bought you that, I suppose ?” he offered. He seemed to be a friendly fellow.
“No,” I had to admit. “I bought it myself.”
It might be the company that I keep, or maybe the times. A pension-collecting white male doesn’t seem to earn a lot of praise. Not that I need it. My most formative were in the 1950s and ’60s and heaping praise on the large collection of progeny that most families seemed to have wasn’t exactly the style of the times. And now the peer group that I most relate to are aging jocks in dressing rooms where most conversation and all of the humour involves insults and putdowns, not to mention social commentary that would leave any other of society’s subcultures aghast and appalled, but leads to loud guffaws and much chortling in delight within this particular congregation.
All done with taste and sensitivity and with the utmost concern for the target’s feelings and self-esteem, of course. But no one is safe and nothing is sacred and one’s ego better be dumped at the door.
Not that my ego is given the kid-glove treatment anywhere else, however. My next door neighbour spends most of his time sitting on his front porch, summer and winter. What keeps him company (and probably warm) is a variety of alcoholic beverages that are never far from his side. We always greet each other in a neighbourly way, he noting my affinity for hitting things with sticks because I always seem to be lugging either a hockey bag or golf clubs in and out of the car and me asking him what his libation of choice is for now. The rest of the day the sounds that I hear the most from his veranda would be coughing, snorting and hacking.
All that boozing couldn’t be good for him, I think to myself quite often.
But the Good Book warns us to judge not lest we be judged. And I had quite a collection of beer and wine bottles in my basement that eventually blocked my way to my golf clubs. Not wishing to make a spectacle of myself in front of my neighbours and send them (ahem) the wrong impression I decided to collect my cache under the cover of darkness and hustle it into the beer store the next day. That way no one would be watching and jumping to any (mistaken) conclusions.
The chore took several trips, with some heaving of breath and clinking of bottles. Finally finished, I gently closed the trunk and turned to return inside.
I took one step towards my house and then nearly bumped into my neighbour, standing just in front of me with a smirk on his face and a beer in his hand. He didn’t have to say much.
“You’re as big a boozer as I am,” he chuckled.
And then he turned on his heel, stumbling a bit of course, and returned to his porch, snorting and hacking.