Al Batt: Meanwhile back here at the old geezer bench

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I was playing the part of me.

I’d spoken at a thing in Alaska.

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My wife had accompanied me. I’d had a swell time.

We flew home and landed at MSP Airport at a reasonable time. I remembered where our car was parked and we headed home. Because we’d been gone for a spell, my wife said we needed things. We stopped at a large mall in the Twin Cities because they had things there.

My wife, sensing my shopping reluctance, tried to cheer me by saying, “This shouldn’t take long. I need to get just one thing.”

She shortened her shopping list for me. I love my wife, but we don’t go into a big shopping mall to get just one thing. That’s not the way my people roll.

I dragged my feet as if my shoes had lead soles and I might have whimpered as we entered the bright lights and noise of the mall. That slight whimpering must have gotten on my wife’s nerves. The pressure of shopping can turn the nicest person into someone who would snap at her ever-loving husband, “If you’re going to whine, go over and sit on that bench with all the other old geezers.” That meant she wouldn’t be buying me a treat. A geezer is a man who has lived long enough to show fraying around the fringe.

“OK,” I said, pretending that my feelings had been bruised.

I sat down on a bench uncomfortable enough to prevent unlawful assembly. You needed to bring your own padding. I was the only geezer on that geezer bench. I didn’t mind because I was happy there.

I wasn’t on the geezer bench long before another geezer sat down beside me. A nice thing about a geezer bench is there is no need to introduce yourself or explain why you’re there. Everyone knows you’re there because you’re a geezer. It’s like a daycare center for husbands. You’re immediately accepted into the geezer fraternity without painful initiation, membership fees or background check.

My new geezer buddy was wearing a Cabela’s hat, spiffy Keen sandals and a black T-shirt acting as a canvas for the words “Think less. Stupid more.”

“What kind of car do you drive?” was his greeting to me.

I told him I had a Subaru.

“That’s a shame,” he said.

“It is?”

“Yup,” he said. “You should drive a Buick. It’s the best car made.”

I immediately pegged him as a crackerjack salesman for a Buick dealership.

“You don’t happen, by any chance, to drive a Buick?” I asked, taking a stab in the dark.

“Sure do,” said my geezer amigo, astonished at my insight. “Do you know if they filled up the tank in my Buick and say a Subaru or Toyota of the same size and took the cars to those salt flats in Utah and let them all run until they ran out of gas, my Buick would go a good quarter of a mile farther than the others?”

“Wow!” I said, for several reasons.

“And don’t get me started on tire wear,” he added. I vowed not to. He wasn’t a car salesman, but he still went on and on. He nearly had me convinced that the next Subaru I’d buy was going to be a Buick when he took a breath, which caused me to look up and see a young woman walking toward us. She had the look of someone on a mission. She carried no clipboard, so I figured she was the granddaughter of my geezer compadre and had come to get him.

“Grandpa,” I imagined her saying. “Grandma says to stop bothering people about your beloved Buick and get home for dinner.”

My geezer buddy, unbothered by diminished listenership, launched into extolling the virtues of a Buick’s versatility and reliability when he noticed the young woman. That put a sock in his soliloquy.

The woman looked directly at me and asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Al Batt?’

My head swelled. There are endless TV shows, yet myriads moan, “There’s nothing worth watching.” I did one of those shows for years. Maybe that’s how she identified me. To be recognized in a big city by someone far south of my age bracket was earthshaking. Wait until my wife heard about this joyful recognition.

I decided to have some fun. “Why, yes, people have told me I resemble that handsome rascal,” I replied, smirking at my cleverness.

The woman paused before saying, “Boy, I’ll bet that ticks you off.”

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.