At the Counter

I eat breakfast at the Belmont Diner about three times a week.  I love walking there.  And I love the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter.  Today “Bob” was across the way and “Ralph” was a few seats to my right.  I wondered what I’d learn from these guys.

As the three of us talked, the dishwasher was going full speed.  I know that my hearing has declined over the past few years but this morning was an extra challenge.  Ralph has just moved to Belmont and he was talking about his hometown of Windsor, Ontario.  But I was missing a word or two from every sentence.  I so much wanted to understand what he was telling me but the gaps were too big for me to fill in.  So I sat there and sighed.  It came through so vividly how deeply I want to be in communion with other human beings.  The pull was intense.  And then I realized that I could just “be with” Ralph and meet him in a place that didn’t require a complete story.  I knew that beside me sat a man who was grappling with the meaning of the word “home” … such a human thing to do.

On the other side of the counter, Bob was reminiscing about his days as a hockey referee.  I love hockey and I wanted to immerse myself in the life of an on-ice official.  Alas, his story was also hit-and-miss to my ears.  And again, once I saw how contracted I was, how tensed up, I let go into the sweet memories that are such a part of his life.

There seem to be different levels of listening and the limitations of my ears need not stop me from “getting” the people who come my way.  I’ll keep exploring new ways of sensing into the souls around me.

***

Here are two stories, as best as I can figure:

1.  Bob refereed for years, usually games with teenaged players and rabid fans.  In one particular rowdy arena, a bunch of well-lubricated fellows sat in the front row.  They delighted in blasting the “bad” calls uttered by said referee.  Bob noticed that their beers were propped on a narrow shelf on the other side of the protective glass.  He’d had enough of their bombast and casually smashed his arm on the glass, causing a vibration that toppled the cups onto their owners’ laps.  The reaction he got?  Howls of laughter.  Bob reffed many other games at that arena and each time those guys were sitting there, cups against the glass.  And each time Bob smashed, beers descended and howls commenced.  What a great story!

2.  Ralph knows Windsor like the back of his hand.  A new bridge is being built to link the city with Detroit across the river, and many of the approaching roads are done.  Recently Ralph got on one of those routes … and had no idea where he was.  Windsor was unrecognizable and Ralph was supremely disoriented.  I saw it in his face.  How strange to have the comfort of “home” jolted away.

***

Not hearing everything
Getting the truth of everything
Smiling

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