Sometimes people need a little help. It was late night at Shea’s Tavern. The tall, strong, young man was having a difficult time navigating the doorway and sidewalk leading to my Toaster. Normally it would be easy peezy – but he is not all that used to being on crutches. His right leg – in a cast up to his knee – is the result of a motorcycle accident – no surprise here. I see lots of bikes at Shea’s. Bikers are risk takers by nature. Accidents happen on bikes. With or without a few drinks. Crutches can be difficult to handle for any of us. They are damn near impossible to handle when you’re shit-faced. He was a macho sort of guy – muscles and tattoos – and didn’t accept my offer to help him into the cab. But after losing his balance and falling backwards, crashing into the the old brick building five feet behind him, he acquiesced. The fare wasn’t large, about $12… and on the way he explained to me that he was a functioning alcoholic and that “the broken leg” was really making it difficult for him to party like he normally did. He was a bit disturbed by the whole situation. I found it interesting the he referred to his leg as “the broken leg” rather than “my broken leg.” His bike, of course, was “his bike” rather than “the bike.” I’ll leave the interpretations up to you. He was grateful that I got out of the cab to help with his sticks – by now I was his friend – and of my suggestion that he walk through his front lawn rather than taking the sidewalk and driveway to his front porch. I explained how I figured it would hurt less if he fell on the grass. I reckoned that might just happen. I reckoned I might be able to catch him. I’m glad I didn’t get that chance. He really was a big boy. I took his house keys from him as he struggled with them, the sticks and his balance on the porch… and opened the door. He was home, drunk, safe and happy. Sometimes people just need a little help. Sometimes people need to be heard I took him for a man in his 90’s. Small, spotted skin, very old and worn out clothing. I figured his clothes to be nearly my age, in their early 50’s. He had water on both knees and could barely
walk with the cane. It looked excruciating… this walk to the car and the subsequent jockeying to get into the front seat. The whole time he was talking… talking, talking, talking… story telling… reminiscing. He was a “Heinz 57”, he said. Native American, German, Dutch and Italian. When he used to get together with family, he spoke whatever the equivalent of ‘Spanglish’ is when speaking Spanish and his tribe’s native tongue. He told me of his service in WWII… and of his various brothers and cousins who also served. He told me about his grandmother and how they never knew how old she was because the records were destroyed decades ago when the courthouse burned to the ground. They knew she was really old since she told stories about the wars. Not WWII or even WWI, but the Indian wars of the late 1800’s. Yes, John, or Juan as was his real name, could talk and talk. I was in a listening mood. He was a sweet old man and he just needed to get out of the house for the night. He told me that he doesn’t get visitors at his apartment, seniors complex, where the other old people just sit around all the time. He said he just has to get out sometimes. The Sands casino has some weekly Free Play for him – though he clearly understood it really wasn’t free. “Nothing in life is free”, he assured me. “We pay for it all one way or another. All of it.” He was right, of course… I liked him. A $7 fare and a $2 tip… fair enough… especially coming from a poor octogenarian on a fixed income who isn’t long for this world. He thanked me for being a good listener and asked for my card. Another $7 and $2 went into my pocket a few hours later when he called me back for a ride home. I can be a good listener. I can be patient with nice elders. I hope someone is nice to me if I happen to live long enough to need a ride, a listener and some Free Play. Sometimes people just need to be heard.