Thursday, September 23, 2004

One Good Deed

It is hell...getting old. The man said that over and over as I helped him find his car. He had paid the water bill at the water department and managed to lose his car. The man walked several blocks throughout downtown Newark; he ended up in front of dad's store. Issy and I were taking a walk, in lieu of actually doing any work when the man said "I lost my car." I assumed he had parked nearby, somewhere along the square as it can be difficult to discern one parking spot from another. We walked around the block, I noticed the man was tiring and I told him to sit and rest. The Brothers Wilson walked around several more blocks, searching vainly for a "black Chevy truck with a covering on the back", the old man could not provide anymore detailed information. Issy pointed out a black Chevy truck with a covering about two blocks away; I hoped it was the right one.

We went back and took the befuddled man to "his" car, upon reaching the vehicle he stated that he was looking for a Ford, one that has a two folding backseats and pointed to a nearby caravan as an example. I began to realize that the man wasn't entirely sure what car he drove, which was going to make finding his vehicle very difficult. And, to make matters worse he could barely stand. I failed to mention one fact; he was ninety years old.

After instructing him to rest on the nearby bench, I asked if he needed any water, the man said "No. I feel like a damned fool. It is hell...getting old." I assured him that everyone makes a mistake and hurried back to the store so I could use dad's van to make the search a bit easier. Ten minutes later with Issy in tow we drove back to the man and set off, once again, to find his wayward car.

I checked virtually every parking lot, space, nook and cranny between the courthouse and the Water Department, apparently the car had disappeared, or was never there in the first place. I quizzed the man several times and discovered that he was now sure the car had been parked by the Water Department.

Could someone else have picked it up? No, he didn't have anyone else. Did you leave a spare key in the car? No, I have my only key with me. This left three possibilities: 1. The car, truck, or mini-van, whichever it was, had been towed. 2. The car had been stolen by a very brave and/or stupid thieves in broad daylight in the parking lot next the City's Water Department. 3. The vehicle never existed in the first place. I figured it was option number three but that lead to more troubling questions: Why was the elderly gentleman all alone, wandering throughout the downtown and who had lost him? I inquired at the Water Department if any vehicles had been towed, the answer was no. Therefore, there was little else I could do to help.

I told the man that his best bet was to seek the help of the local Police Department; he agreed that was the best course of action or at least I think he did in the form of nodding his aged head. All he could keep saying was "It is hell...getting old."

I parked two hundred feet or so away from the entrance to the Police Department; I really believe those were the longest two hundred feet of his life. He could barely walk, I offered to assist him but he politely shooed me away. Several times he faltered and nearly fell, thankfully, I along with several cars, were there to offer support. Eventually he made it to the door, I opened it of course, and we arrived to the station. The clerk, or whatever you call non-uniformed woman at the front desk, inquired what I needed. I quickly and concisely detailed the particulars of our ill-fated adventure. She thanked me for bringing him there and gestured for me to leave. She motioned for the man to come forward and I left without ever so much as a goodbye.

I regret not staying a little longer, at least to say goodbye. I never did think to ask his name, nor did I offer my own. It never came up or at least I never thought to bring it up. I hope he found his erstwhile occupied car. His haunting mantra still echoes in my thoughts: It is hell...getting old.

Go to Hell