This morning I visited one of the branches of Bank of PI where I used to work and I suddenly missed the daily grind in the banking world. It’s been fourteen years since I left the bank and availed of an early retirement. Taking a commute always has its moments of fun and laughter sometimes.
I took a jeepney going to and from the bank, a twenty-minute ride from our place (tricycle ride from the subdivision included). On my way home from the mall just across the bank, a jeepney was waiting for more riders. An old lady with a cane was dragging her feet to hop on the jeepney so we helped her take her seat. When she did, she said, “the difficulty of getting old”. Another passenger in front of her asked, “How old are you?” She answered, “I’m 78 now”.
Wow, she’s seventy-eight years old, twenty years older than I am but then she does not look her age. She asked the other passenger her age in return and the latter answered, “I am 64”. The old lady continued, “I was still working when I was your age, selling insurance plans”. The other passengers and I smiled. You know, that kind of shy smiles that you get to bestow on a new-found friend. It was the start of a lively conversation inside the jeep. She told us that she got rid of her household help of four years, a gossipy woman that she can’t tolerate. She lives alone, her children are residing abroad. Then she turned to me and asked, “Why are you wearing a face mask?” I told her I am allergic to the gas fumes emitted by the vehicles and motorcycles, I don’t want my resistance to run low because of it and casually mentioned that I am a survivor. She looked at me like I am from planet Mars and with a smile said, “you look healthy”. Another five minutes of exchanging ideas and views about the importance of health and such. Her parting words before she alighted from the jeepney was, “I pray every night that God embraces me when I am asleep because I’ll never know if I am going to wake up again. At my age, I have to be careful because I am alone”. It set me thinking – the bane of getting on with age and growing older.
During the tricycle ride home, I was beside an old lady who was busy searching for coins in her pocket and behind us were two old ladies giggling like teenagers while having a chat. The other one said, “mamaya ka na magbayad pag bumaba ka na” meaning she can just pay later. When she alighted from the tricycle, the driver said, “bayad na ho”. A teenager riding at the back paid for her fare. What a nice gesture, it made me smile all the way home.
Sometimes I just feel happy talking to baggers in supermarkets, cashiers in malls and vendors in wet markets. Sometimes I ask myself why they open up to complete strangers and share a little of life’s journeys. Maybe, it’s the anonymity of it all. Maybe, what we need is to get in touch with people often. Saying “hello” or “good morning” might make a big difference in their lives and talking to them makes it worthwhile.