A PUBLIC SENIOR MOMENT
The woman tapped my husband on the shoulder and asked, “What year were you born?”
Rob happened to be standing at the counter of Der Wiener, ordering his usual Polish. He turned around, saw she was quite tiny . . . and also that she was Japanese. And very aged. Ultimately, as usually happens with Rob, the two exchanged stories—not only that she was from the big island in Hawaii and ( to his surprise), didn’t speak Japanese but, to her surprise, that he and his family had recently been there.
Before I go further, let it be known that Rob regularly astounds me as we watch Jeopardy. Some evenings he gets more right answers than the contestants. “How did you know the name of that river . . . the one that runs between Laos and Thailand?” I ask.
“I don’t know how I know. Must have heard it somewhere.”
“And you knew what year the Hindenburg caught fire. How did you happen to get that?”
“I saw it in the paper,” he said. “I remember the exact year and month—and how old I was at the time.” He looked at me. “It’s one of those events I’ll never forget.”
“Well, I remember reading about the Hindenburg, too. Besides the awfulness of the description, and grasping that the blimp’s gondola was full of people and the whole thing came down in flames, all other facts escape me.”
“I felt like I was there,” he said.
But back to the tiny Japanese lady and how it all began. “I was born in 1926,” she offered quietly. And then again, “What year were you born?”
“A year later than that,” said Rob. “Why?”
She touched a spot near his waist. “I was just curious,” she said. “See this tag?”
Rob looked down and suddenly read her assumption—that he was an elderly man living alone, that somebody had to put him straight.
She said, “Your shirt is inside out.”