I’m not sure what part of a person’s brain is responsible for it but Walter’s sense of humor is completely intact. He’s pretty good on an escalator too but watching him can make a person nervous. Earlier that morning during our bank visit, I insisted (much against his gentlemanly nature) on riding the escalator behind him. We were going up.
He said, “If I fall down this thing and take you with me, who’s going to call the ambulance?”
“It’s Regions Bank Walter,” I said, “they probably have an EMT and a lawyer on standby.”
“Neat,” he said.
We successfully navigated the two escalators that took us to the library but getting there wasn’t free of challenges.
Between the parking garage and the check out desk we were nearly run over half a dozen times. By people. Each time it was like trying to dodge a cannon ball. Four people were talking on cell phones. They glanced in his direction just long enough to convey their irritation. One person visibly relaxed after seeing him from the front but not a single person slowed down. Twice, someone stopped to hold the door for Walt but when it came to walking patiently then behind him, only one meditative soul was able to jump into a different groove for the fifteen seconds it took him to get through the lobby door. Fifteen seconds doesn’t seem like a long time until there’s someone behind you huffing their aggravation. It was nice that one person was able to resist. Of course, Walter was apologizing at every turn; even when a child (maybe three or four years old) ran between him and the walking stick to get by.
The people working at the library interact with a wide variety of people so nothing much takes them by surprise. I steered Walter to the counter where he was given his new library card and then across the lobby to a doorway that led to the latest fiction. I breathed a sigh of relief once we made it to the carpet.
He walked into the room, picked up a book and with little in the way of deliberation announced, “I’ll take it!” and headed for the door.
“That’s it?” I said “You don’t want to look around or sit down or anything?”
He looked back over his shoulder at me, amused. “Nope.”
He checked out the book and we headed for the coffee shop.
I knew from that bank visit that Walter had ten dollars. Whenever we go to the bank he withdraws either five or ten dollars which charms the socks right off the tellers every time. Walter had decided he was going to buy me lunch for bringing him to the library but when he lumbered up to the refrigerated case he reevaluated this decision. Salads were six dollars. Sandwiches were nearly eight.
“What else do you get with that?” he said to me, pointing at the shelf.
“I don’t know Walter,” I said “maybe you should ask that gentleman behind the counter.”
Knowing full well this was a set-up I redirected his attention, “Soup is three dollars, what if you buy that and I’ll get us something to drink?”
He agreed and we sat at a table facing the windows. I could tell he was happy just being out of his usual surroundings. He slid the new book over in front of him and reached in his pocket to retrieve a hard shelled case. He gingerly removed a pair of reading glasses and at that point I was forced to suppress a giggle. “Where did you get those glasses Walter?” I asked him. They were trimmed with rhinestones. Before he could answer one of the lenses popped out onto the table. He removed the glasses, carefully replaced it and returned them to his nose whereupon the other lens fell out. Suddenly, I felt like we were in a cartoon.
“Jesus Walter,” I said “I think maybe you could use a new pair of glasses.”
“But the problem is:” he said, “I never have any money leftover, or any way to get to a store that sells glasses.”
“Well,” I said, “after we eat, I say we run by the Family Dollar and get a pair. They’ll be like six dollars or something. We’ll call it a birthday present.”
“My birthday isn’t until December,”
“Okay, then it’s just a gift.”
“I can’t promise you rhinestones though.”
“All right,” he said sipping his coffee.