Today I am grateful for park benches. Especially those which hold friendly strangers.
It’s always a dicey situation when I sit on a park bench that is already occupied by someone. There are people in this world who like being inside themselves. They don’t want someone to talk with them. They want to ponder. I respect that. As a chatterer, I don’t get it, but I respect it. Then there are those who don’t let your tush hit the seat before they give you their life story. Or, there are those who are shy or unsure, timid, who really want some company, but don’t know how to start the conversation. It’s a dilemma. Not a poser, like World Peace, but here’s the deal.
We went to the Bluegrass & Blueberry Festival the other day. It got to be two o’clock and, though I had a late breakfast, I knew Mr. Himself had not eaten anything since the three donuts six hours prior. He’s gonna get ugly fast and doesn’t even know it. I suggest we grab a sandwich. The Greek booth had gyro’s for me and a steak sandwich for him. Perfect. But there was a wait. A long wait. The cook, probably used to six souse chefs helping, had one speed. While John stood in line, I said, “I’m going to see if I can find us someplace to sit.” No easy task.
I hovered around various full benches like a panther ready to pounce. It wasn’t long before two people left a bench, leaving a woman sitting on one end. In order to save a spot for himself I plunked down in a taking-over-turned-sideways position, so no one else would try to squeeze in.
I coyly (yes I can by coy) assessed the pleasant woman next to me, maybe a little older than me, as she drank her water. She smiled when I looked her way. Noticing a bunch of other people with hands full of funnel cakes, hot dogs, burgers and crepes, searching for places to sit and eat them, I said, “I think it would have been a good idea if they had put a few tables on the lawn over there during an event like this.” The flood gates of conversation had been breached. Let the conversational tsunami begin.
My new friend, whose name I never got, was lovely. She came down on a bus from Schuylkill Township/County, but had to drive 45 minutes to get there. She still lives on a large farm and rides the lawn mower to cut her lawn, which disturbs her children because they feel guilty that they are not doing it. “But I like doing it and why shouldn’t I do it if I want to?” I agree.
She let me know early in the conversation that she likes to take these bus trips alone, because she can do what she wants, when she wants. I agree with that, too. It’s fun being with someone. . .until it isn’t. . . because none of your own needs get met. She’s been to the Strawberry Festival and is planning on coming again for apples in fall.
We talked about our moms and moving into extended care facilities and our children and smoking parents and our children’s spouses and travels and day tours and bus lines and people watching and which festival has the best Greek food, since my gyro was only marginal. FYI-John never joined us. He had found a spot on another bench and gobbled his sandwich without benefit of girl-talk. It was fine with him, me and probably my new friend.
So today I’m grateful for park benches. You meet the nicest people on them, especially if they are in a well-travelled location. Forty five minutes after I sat down, when I finally left, my spot was swept up by a couple. I wonder if my new friend was chatted-out?