“What are the three bowsers for?”
The muffled voice came from behind my right shoulder. A snowy-haired man, of average frame, perhaps 75 years or more, bearing a vague expression, seeming somewhat nervous, uncertain in his gait, and apparently struggling to catch up with my longer yet slower strides, gestured in the direction of my Harley-Davidson resting alongside bowser number five.
Removing one of my ear plugs to hear him more clearly, I smiled, in part to put him at ease, and in part simply because his face was pleasing, before briefly explaining that the numbers written on each of the nozzles — 100, 95, and 91 — represent that fuel’s octane rating; further, that “E10” written on the nozzle represents 10% ethanol, and, what is the relevance of all these to various kinds and ages of engines.
Seeming satisfied with this, the old man mumbled something about having bought his car “about 10 years ago”, turning to point back towards a dark blue Toyota Camry parked across the way at bowser number two, then simply doddered off in its direction without further word.
This little interaction was the highlight of my day. It caused me to feel a long lasting surge of inner happiness, and satisfaction.
And that joyful feeling prompted a time of reflection, as I rumbled homeward bound.
It is truly, such a wonderful thing. Simply to be able, to help someone else.
To be of service.
Often times, helping can entail little more than the sharing of information gained, not through any great effort or expense, but simply from having been blessed with experience of living.
Indeed, it was this somewhat paradoxical aspect of my interaction with the old man that most provoked my contemplation. Because here, a younger person was able to help an older one, by virtue of having and sharing basic information that the older man had not, apparently, otherwise gleaned, despite having many more years of life experience.
For some time now, I have lamented the ever-growing encouragements to worship of youth. There are, I think, far too many harms arising from such worship, to even begin to explicate them in this, what was intended to be, just a little anecdote.
Even more so, however, I have lamented the coincident — or perhaps, consequent? — ever-growing encouragements to loss of respect, of reverence, for the hoary head of experience.
You see, I really like old people. Always have done.
I see every old person as a fascinating mystery, and one holding great opportunity. A rich beneficiary, of a great and limitless universal trust fund, established for all of us, by a wonderful benefactor named Time. A beneficiary whose relative riches have been increased in proportion, more or less, to the Time they have known, loved, and held on to. A veritable storehouse of unique and rare pearls of simple wisdom, and little glittering jewels of useful knowledge. Received through Time, and now hidden amongst the clutter of foolishness and falsehoods, and the cobwebs of forgetting; which is only human, of course. A treasure trove of gems, gathered together, one by one, from across their ages, or passed down from their ancestors’ ages.
Some, or many, of these riches may soon be lost to us. Never to be discovered, by you or I, through our own experience of Time.
Unless we ask for directions.