Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lessons Learned From Grumpy Old Men - My Trip Home From Kingston To Toronto

Yesterday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to figure out my packing situation for the long weekend. I've mentioned a number of times on this blog, prior to my trips home, that I'm a chronic overpacker. Ever met those people who don't know the meaning of "pack lightly"? Even if they're only going to be away for a few days? That's me. I never know what to pack. Even when I was younger, I'd pack my life away in numerous duffel bags on my way to sleepovers (until my parents would throw their hands up in frustration and made me re-pack).

But, no matter. Because, I'm home! Home for the long weekend! Ah, it feels so good to be back. Hope everyone has a great long weekend, it's sure to be a good one!

But, I learned a lesson on my way home yesterday.

Hopping on the city bus (with just a mere backpack, duffel bag, and purse, I know, WHAT A PACKING SUPERSTAR!), I headed over to Kingston's local bus terminal where my Coach bus was leaving at 10:00 am, bound for Toronto.

I arrived an hour early, with time to kill. So I walked over to the Tim Horton's located beside the terminal to get some breakfast. As I walked in, I blinked. The coffee shop was full, and I mean full, of old men. Not that it was overtly weird... but it kind of was. Oddly fascinating.

Because, it was like a scene from the movies. I mean, it wasn't like there was an old man convention going on. That bus terminal is pretty much located in the middle of nowhere. It just looked so fascinating, you know? The tables were flooded with old men, chatting.

Think of that classic, stereotypical scene of old men sitting around a coffee shop chatting with their friends about life. That's what I saw. Old men in corduroy pants, plaid shirts, jean jackets, perfectly parted gray hair, cell phones bigger than your forearms. The coffee shop was full of them. All sitting in their old men cliques, chatting with their friends over coffee.

But that wasn't the weird part.

Luckily, I spotted an empty table, hurried over to dump my things on the table, and turned to order a breakfast sandwich and tea to satisfy my growling tummy. After I was handed my order, I sat happily in my corner, unravelled my sandwich, and happily texted my friends that, YES, I WAS AT THE BUS TERMINAL AND I WAS COMING HOME, BABY!

Until, of course, my penchant for eavesdropping got the better of me.

At the table beside me sat a clique of five old men. And, after listening for a few minutes, I figured out two of their names. Albert and Johnson. Cute, right? Except, their conversation was far from endearing.

"Albert, we're going to die soon," Johnson said glumly, chomping on his chocolate dipped donut.

"Why do you say that?" Albert asked.

"Because, we're old, damnit," Johnson snapped. "All our friends are gone. We're bored everyday. I say, we're going to die soon too."

"How did we get so old?" Another man chirped, sighing dejectedly, "We really are going to die."

"What do we have to live for?" the fourth one wailed, "We're too old to golf, too old to shop, too old to do anything."

"We might as well just die," Johnson sighed.

How morbidly depressing. And as I looked around, eavesdropping on other conversations, the other old men at other tables were talking in the same vein.

There was the conversation about Smith with the "bad heart" and how "he had it coming." The conversation on how "bingo was getting boring." The conversation on how "the grandkids don't visit anymore." The conversation on how "life is so boring, we might as well just die." They all seemed to reach that conclusion.

It was so sad. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to reach over and give them all hugs, but, you know, they would have thought I was insane.

I remember volunteering at retirement homes with my parents last year, playing the piano for elderly folks just like the men in that coffee shop. And just like the men in that coffee shop, they all sat in their beds or chairs. Wistful, sad, bored, lonely. Th men in that coffee shop kept saying life was boring. That they felt so alone.

No one deserves that, you know?

How sad, how lonely it must be to live life like that. And, that's the thing. Yesterday was just a wakeup call for me. That there are people out there, young or old, who may need someone to talk to, who may need someone to entertain them in the midst of their current issues. There are people out there who are lonely, who may have problems they haven't told anybody. Sometimes, people just need someone to care about them. Someone to love them, to be their friend.

We all might be busy and overwhelmed with this grad life, but it shouldn't stop us from checking in with our friends, relatives, parents, to see if they're doing alright. There are many people, older or younger, out there who may need help valuing each day we're given. Who desire friendship, love, companionship. Let's not get so wrapped up in our own affairs that we forget to check up and spend time with those we care about, yea? Seeing those men yesterday greatly concerned me. Whose checking up on them, I wonder?

Sorry, that was a little sappy. End corny blog post. And, I've just given myself a major guilt trip for skipping out on volunteering at the retirement home since September.

Boo to me.

I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend, spending time with those you love and those you care about!

"The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence, it comes about that, at their first appearance, innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen."
- Aldous Huxley

"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."
- Nelson Mandela


  1. I also spend time at the coffee shoppe chatting with friends about aging. It is a typical conversation piece amongst men, both young and old, hahaha.

    Enjoy your time home!

  2. Haha, I do too, actually! But these men sounded so sad while they were chatting. I felt so bad for them! Enjoy your long weekend! SKYPE SOON, MANG! :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi, love the story it reminds me of summers back home. And i especially love the pictures! i am an illustration and graphics student at the university of coventry, with background in fine art and i was wondering wether it would be ok for me to use the "old man convention" picture you have taken as reference for one of the paintings i want to make. It is beautiful! i am working on a project about peace and this reminded me of how things were before the war in cyprus. would it be ok with you if you dropped me an email? I would be glad to hear from you. Thank you and I hope you're enjoying birmingham :)