I think that it was my mother who told me, many years ago, that there would always be someone better than me in something. This used to be a common saying (I doubt that it’s part of the parental repertoire these days) and it’s true, although not always experienced on a daily basis. No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone, somewhere, better at it than you. And the same for that person. (I wonder now why she told me this: was I so full of myself that I needed bringing down to Earth?)
This fact came home to me the other day when I ran into an old friend at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Situated at the top of Decarie Boulevard near Monkland Avenue, this place is very popular with the Jewish crowd. As we ate. Naomi looked around and said, “I don’t think there’s one non-Jewish person here.”
I tried to point out someone who looked non-Jewish sitting at the table right next to her. Naomi nodded; still, this person’s boyfriend did look Jewish.
This Jewish clientele helps explain why the restaurant was so noisy.
The restaurant’s cacophony didn’t bother me, however; and good on the restaurant: if you want to survive, keep pleasing your affluent customers – they’ll keep coming back.
On our way out to pay the bill, I suddenly looked up, recognized a person approaching and called out, “Arthur!”
The man looked at me and obviously wondered who the heck I was.
I don’t usually act out so spontaneously. Normally I would have taken my time to make sure that I had the right person. Even now I don’t know how I was able to make the connection in the split-second I did. I knew Arthur growing up until we lost contact when we enrolled in different junior colleges (CEGEP, in Quebec) back in the fall of 1970. He had changed a lot; I don’t know what it was that got me, his eyes perhaps.
Arthur was an easy-going guy 48 years ago. He laughed easily, was neither very bright nor slow in class, and belonged to the “straight” crowd at school, mostly shy boys like him. He was chubby and shorter than me. The man who I espied on his way to the washroom was super thin, looking quite fit, wore a smart-looking goatee and was taller than my 5’ 11” stature.
He just stared at me and then blurted, “Do I know you?”
“Arthur Cxxxxxxx? I’m Ron Silverman. From school?”
It still took a second or two for him to recognize me.
This, I admit, bothered me because I had gotten used to hearing from people I hadn’t seen in decades saying that I hadn’t changed much over the years.
Another thing that I had gotten used to, was seeing the surprise on peoples’ faces when they heard my age.
This happened recently at a private medical clinic where I’m signed up for a hemorrhoidectomy for later this month. When one of the nurses heard that I was 60, she called in a colleague and said, “Guess how old Mr. Silverman is.” I touched my hair, while this other nurse looked at me uncomfortably while being put on the spot. Pointing to my head I said, “I have all this grey hair…”. When she couldn’t, or wouldn’t guess, the other blurted out, “He’s 60!”
Naturally, I felt great. And when this scenario occurred again a few days later at the barber shop, I felt great again.
But here was a person, my own age obviously, who looked fitter then me and younger than me! Ouch!
[Editor’s – the wife – note: He looks exactly your age, which he is. Thanks, hon.]
We chatted amiably. I heard that he has three grandchildren, something he mentioned with great pride and happiness. As well was the pride he seemed to take in leaving the field of business he was in for most of his life and going to work for the Federal Government some time ago. I also learned that he lives on the same street as me, on the other side of Queen Mary Road.
Actually, I never run across anyone from school in Montreal, maybe because 90% of my classmates left the province decades ago. Not so small world (I have a better chance of running into an old classmate in Toronto.)
We shook hands goodbye and then, as he sauntered down the stairs to the washroom, he called out, “See you in 30 years!”
Just as he rounded the corner, I replied, “Yes – at the nursing home!”