Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Soldier

We landed at LAX and I bolted out the door to get down to baggage claim and outdoors, where I could smoke after five long hours on the flight. 

When I got to my destination, I found a young solder, seated on the Smoker's Bench, feet on a duffle; another duffle stashed behind him.  I sat down on the far end from him and lit up.  Just then a man, probably 40 or so, passed, escorting what could have been his mother or an elderly aunt.  He sprinted ahead to get the car trunk open for her bags and the woman followed more slowly.  Because she wasn't focussed on her luggage, she noticed the young soldier, stopped and asked courteously if they could give him a ride anywhere?  "No," he smiled, "But thank you."

Now the man has his head out of the trunk, sees the soldier and calls across the sidewalk to him - "Can we give you a ride?  We'll take you anywhere you want to go..."

The young soldier smiled again, shook his head and said, "No, but thank you."  The man closed the trunk and the two of them drove off, waving their hands "Bye bye" as they went.

One of the few blessingss about being old is the God-given gift of being blunt with people younger than you are.  So I cocked my head and asked, "Doesn't that ever get kind of -- I dunno - tiring?  Everyone seeing the uniform and wanting to help?"

Dodging my question, he smiled nicely and said "I'm waiting for a family member, but you know what?  My friends would have been here on time; family's different."

I grimaced sympathetically, grinned and said, "Well don't get in a car with strangers! (kidding him; a soldier afraid to get in a stranger's car?  I don't think so)  That's how I've survived to 72!" 

He eyed me appraisingly and said with a straight face, "You look good  for 72."

"Son, have you been drinking?" I asked incredulously.

"Just the two on the plane - first I've had in 11 months."

"My God, they should have given you a case!" I say.  Then, noticing his smooth face; he barely had to shave, I said, "Wait a minute!  Are you even old enough to drink legally?"

He grinned and said, "Thank you!"  Then he mubled "I'm nearly 30..."

Richie came out of baggage claim and I moved to meet him, intending to introduce them.  But after I'd gotten up, another woman had grabbed my seat and he was chatting amiably with her.  I grinned to myself and walked to Richie.  Maybe I should have wared him about "loose women" instead of strangers in cars.  God bless our armed forces. 

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