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Thread: I had a pleasant chat with a Vietnam veteran today

  1. #1
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    I had a pleasant chat with a Vietnam veteran today

    At about 1:00 this afternoon I found myself craving some calories while walking past a beer-n-burger place that was advertising a special deal on a burger and fries basket. Finding that deal appealing I entered even though I was unfamiliar with the place. Being as hungry as I was I didn't pay much attention to my surroundings until after I had inhaled my burger. The place was near empty with mostly young couples having a late lunch.

    Having had my hunger largely satisfied, and not needing to be anywhere for nearly an hour, I nibbled on my fries and went through my e-mail on my pocket computer. While the weather was nice outside at the time, being cool, sunny, and calm, I thought I'd just hang out at my table for a while since the air conditioning was just right, there was no sun glaring in my eyes, and they had some enjoyable tunes playing.

    At a nearby table there was a white haired man sitting alone that was being a bit boisterous. I wouldn't call him being rude exactly but he was having a loud conversation with no one in particular. He'd compliment the young ladies waiting tables as they passed, telling them how lovely they looked. What he said seemed to make the staff grin and giggle while they worked but the noise did seem to bother some patrons there, as well as a somewhat stocky lady behind the bar. I assume this lady was either the manager or the most experienced of the wait staff. She approached the white haired man and politely asked asked him to settle down.

    His silence lasted only seconds, and again he was warned, a bit more firmly. This time he was asked to finish his beverage and be on his way. He was quiet for maybe a minute before he was again loudly saying sweet things to the female wait staff. The presumed manager warned him that if he didn't behave that she would have him removed.

    Seeing this happen I made a few calculations. First thing is that I didn't want this to escalate. He seemed to be harmless enough, perhaps a bit drunk, but I feared what might happen if there were no more warnings to come. The second realization was that this man was behaving in a way that reminded me of my nephews. He was wanting some attention, like a bored little boy, but he wasn't sure how to get it. Since he got someone's attention, even if it was the wrong kind of attention, he might just try to keep it going.

    I looked at the time and thought I had at least a half hour before I needed to be somewhere, so I went to this boisterous white haired man, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked if he would mind if I pulled up a chair at his table. He seemed confused for only a split second and then continued his conversation but instead of being with no one in particular he had directed his desire to join a writer's guild towards me.

    I picked up my drink, basket of fries, and pocket computer and sat next to him. We talked about how we each wanted to write a story. About where we went to school, I studied at ISU and he at UNI. I found out he was a Navy corpsman during the Vietnam War. I told him I was in the Army with an intelligence MOS during OIF/OEF. We both scored highly on our military entrance exams, which is how we got the jobs we did in the military. His story was a lot like mine which gave me this odd feeling that I could be like this guy in 20 years.

    Twice during our conversation I offered to buy him something to eat. The first time he said something about wanting to go somewhere else to eat. The second time he asked if I'd buy him a drink instead. Judging by his behavior, the smell of his breath, and the drink he was sipping on before we started talking I estimated he was halfway through his third vodka and lemonade so far today. I refused to buy him another drink and I quickly shifted the conversation back to whatever it was before.

    After talking with him for about a half hour I was able to keep him from making all but one more outburst. About halfway through our chat he said to one of the passing young waitresses something like, "You look as sweet as bubblegum." Which I thought was nice, and got an embarrassed reaction from the lady, but I gave him a gentle reminder that it was things like that which almost had him kicked out.

    As I gathered up my things to get on with my day we exchanged a desire to meet again, shook hands, and promised to keep an eye out for each other in the future.

    On my way out the door I stopped one of the wait staff and asked if the man came in there often, thinking I might have to eat there in the future. She said she was new there and did not know. She also said that it was very nice of me to talk with that man, I replied that I was just glad to keep him quiet for them as long as I had.

    I shared this story because I believe there are a lot of lessons in there that people might see. I learned that you can meet some of the most interesting people in the strangest ways. I learned that even though this guy was likely as intelligent and as educated as myself I think that perhaps some poor decisions in his life left him getting drunk at noon on a Tuesday. I need to make sure I don't make the same poor decisions.

    I'd also like to think that I bought myself some karma. I don't know if after I left that gentleman went back to misbehaving but at least I was able to let the stocky manager lady cool off a bit, and let the other patrons finish their meals in relative peace. All it cost me was a half hour of my day, time I likely would not have made very productive anyway.

    If in twenty years or so you see a white haired man in a bar in the early afternoon, talking loudly about how he could have been a playwright, while sipping on a fruity alcoholic beverage, then do me a favor. Sit down with the guy, offer him a coffee or a grilled cheese sandwich, and have a short chat. You might just be keeping him from making another bad decision and making what could have been a bad day into a pleasant one. Even if that man isn't me then you win, he wins, we all win.

    Good night all. I had a good day, I hope you did too.
    You can have free speech or you can have income taxes but you cannot have both.

  2. #2
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    Reminds me of a line from a John Wayne movie with Ella Raines and Gabby Hayes and other contemporaries - "Tall in the Saddle."

    Gabby plays "Dave" a grumpy old stage coach driver and the station master tells John Wayne's character (Rockland) about how grumpy he is. Wayne's character says, "I like grumpy old men. I hope to live long enough to be one!"

    Me too.

    Woody
    http://oklahomafirearmservices.com/
    If the ends sought cannot be achieved through the means granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution, there is neither a need nor the power for the Federal Government to get involved.. B.E.Wood

  3. #3
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    A good story Farmboy.
    Thanks.

    Woody, don't worry. That time will come faster than either of us want!
    Life Member of both NRA and North American Hunting Club
    “Crime is to be expected since humans are never perfect. But the failure of Justice may be more damaging to Society than the crime itself.” - - Clarence Darrow

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTHunter View Post
    A good story Farmboy.
    Thanks.

    Woody, don't worry. That time will come faster than either of us want!
    At 70 I'm pretty close. I feel a grouch coming on!

    Woody
    http://oklahomafirearmservices.com/
    If the ends sought cannot be achieved through the means granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution, there is neither a need nor the power for the Federal Government to get involved.. B.E.Wood

  5. #5
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    Yesterday I saw in the newspaper that there was some kind of resource fair for veterans in town so I went to it between classes. While there I picked up some brochures for myself, had a chat with someone I knew there, and then remembered my new friend from Tuesday. I went to the same bar for lunch that I did on Tuesday hoping he might be there again, he wasn't. I had some more time before my next class so I thought I'd take a look around the block in case he was hanging around outside as the weather was pleasant again.

    I didn't find my new friend but I did see a handful of people that likely had similar stories. One guy had a sign made from a scrap of cardboard that read something like, "Homeless veteran. Anything you can spare would help. God bless." I didn't give him any money because I didn't know if he'd just use it to buy a drink at the bar like my Vietnam veteran friend did last Tuesday. Maybe I should have stopped to chat with him too but I had no idea how I'd be received.

    I had my eyes opened and now the world looks different, it's hard to explain but I think you all know what I mean. It's not like I learned anything new from the experience, but the information was presented in a different way and I don't like how it makes me feel.

    Yesterday was not such a good day, I hope yours was better.
    You can have free speech or you can have income taxes but you cannot have both.

  6. #6
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    You are doing your best, Iowa. From years of reading your posts, I know that you are a kindly soul. Very few would have bothered to engage the aging gent in conversation.

    Good works are usually rewarded ,IMO. Even in down home, lovely Iowa, there are a fair share of lonely men and women like the white haired gentleman.

    This Beatles song sums it up and has always been my favorite of the Fab Four. From 1966, 50 long years past. Still fresh and relevant today. From Yellow Submarine.

    "A man's got to know his limitations."

    'Harry Callahan' Magnum Force 1973

  7. #7
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    Thanks, JD, I think I needed that. While I admit I wrote my little story seeking someone to say I did the right thing I also did so to be an example. Some people just need someone to listen. I listened to that gentleman talk about how some SOB stole his hat, and share the little pleasure he had in getting his new T-shirt. It eases the sorrow and multiplies the joy.

    I guess I just needed someone to listen to me for a bit.
    You can have free speech or you can have income taxes but you cannot have both.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConstitutionCowboy View Post
    At 70 I'm pretty close. I feel a grouch coming on!

    Woody
    I'm "over 60" so I'm not far behind you.
    Life Member of both NRA and North American Hunting Club
    “Crime is to be expected since humans are never perfect. But the failure of Justice may be more damaging to Society than the crime itself.” - - Clarence Darrow

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