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12 November 2003 — Eugene Brody (7)

I love old people.

I used to wait tables at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. A lot of old people would come in for the Sunday champagne brunch. They were fun — a hell of a lot more fun than most groups. (Families were the worst. They'd run you ragged, making all sorts of demands — "Can we get some apple juice for Junior?" — and finding all sorts of things to complain about — "Junior's apple juice isn't cold enough." Families left huge messes and very, very small tips.

Not so with the old people.

The old people were very accommodating. When they asked for something special — like tomato juice or prune juice — they'd say: "Take your time, take your time." And then when I brought them the prune juice, they'd slip me a dollar tip. Especially if I kept the champagne flowing, they'd joke with me and tell me stories and then, when they'd left, I'd find an enormous tip. For some reason, at that stage in my life old women were very attracted to me. I was not beneath flirting with them. Hell no! My biggest tips came from parties of old women, parties that I'd drowned in champagne and charm.

I've mentioned Herb Nelson in the past, an old man that calls us here at Custom Box Service from time-to-time. I could listen to him forever. He tells great stories.

I just got a call from an old man named Eugene Brody. "I live over here in southeast Portland," he told me. "Sellwood, they call it. I live on the knoll just south of Powell and just east of McLoughlin."

He wants some boxes, but he can't drive out to get them. He totaled his car three years ago and hasn't been able to replace it. He needs boxes in which to store catalogs, and he gave me very precise measurements of the size he wants.

I tried to interrupt him to ask questions about the boxes, but Eugene just kept talking, explaining how he's had these boxes for years and years, and that he bought them from a place that used to be down in the industrial area, but now that place has moved to Tualatin, and on and on.

Then he enthused about the shelving on which he stores the boxes.

"It's Metro Shelving," he said. "It's the finest shelving you will ever lay your hands on. I've used a lot of shelving in my life, boy, and this is the best. It's made right here in Portland, and you can find it all over the place. There's a place in Oregon City that has it. It's made of steel rods spaced every twelve inches, and each shelf can hold two hundred pounds. My shelf right here is holding over a ton. You owe it to yourself to take a look at this shelving."

He wasn't trying to sell me this product, he was simply letting me know how much he loved it.

In the end, I referred him to a different company, though I wish would have at least goaded him into speaking for a while longer.

I love old people.

[Update: As I was writing this entry, I got a call from Delores, who works at one of our distributors. I'd sent Eugene to this company when I decided we couldn't help him. "I just wanted to thank you," said Delores. "That was one of the best referrals I've ever had. He was quite a character." Eugene had dazzled her, too, had told her that he's eighty-four years old and on Social Security. His fax machine is down, and it will cost seventy-five dollars to repair it, but he doesn't know if the next Social Security check, which comes during the third week of the month, will be enough to cover it. He told her about the shelving, too, only he added that he bought it in white so that it matches his décor. Delores and I both will have had good days if only because we spoke to Eugene Brody.]

On this day at foldedspace.org

2004Little Things   Sometimes it is the little things which make me happy.

2002Suckers   It's a big day in Geek Land: both the extended The Fellowship of the Ring DVD and the Attack of the Clones DVD are released today. I'm not likely to buy the Attack of the Clones DVD, but you never can tell.

On 12 November 2003 (02:16 PM), Lynn said:

I like old people as well. Working in an insurance office I see a lot of them who come in to make their payments just so they can visit. Of course, we accomodate.

On a side note, J.D., does it ever both you that Madonna sang a song that had the line: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Everytime I click to this site and see that - that horrible song plays thru my head. Sorry, but I can't think of the name. I, for one, was aghast at the fact that Samantha Fox - of both 80's and porno movie fame - had a song that constantly abused the Shakespeare line: "If music be the food of love, play on." Yikes. There should be a law.

On 12 November 2003 (02:29 PM), Dave said:

As some of you know, I make a good portion of my living doing estate planning and probate work, which means that I'm dealing with elderly people all the time. Candidly, I much prefer dealing with older people than with younger people (which may be why I do what I do). They're usually more patient but also more willing to say what's on their mind, which saves me time. The potential down side is that you have to spend a lot of time listening to the stories. Most of the time that's not so bad as they're usually quite amusing.

Lynn's dead on, JD, with the comment about the Madonna song. It's from the Dick Tracy soundtrack, and the song is entitled, "Now I'm Following You", if I remember correctly. Every time I see the page header that song snippet pops into my head, along with the follow up line (which is kind of chanted), "Come over here!"

On 12 November 2003 (02:59 PM), J.D. said:

For once, I think I can say that you two are bigger geeks than I am. I can't say I've never heard that Madonna song because I've seen the film Dick Tracy. However, I'm unaware of the Madonna song. Thank goodness!

And I hope that the Socrates attribution (and link) would help clear any possible confusion between whether I meant the quote as a tribute to ancient Greek introspection or as a paean to the Material Girl. :)

That being said, I'm willing to entertain ideas for a third masthead quote. (The first quote was "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?")

On 12 November 2003 (03:23 PM), Lynn said:

I like to think it doesn't make me a geek - it makes me well-rounded to have knowledge of even the strangest things. haa haa!

And if you'll re-read my post, you'll see that my irritation is at pop singers abusing the words of people like Socrates and Shakespeare.

On 12 November 2003 (03:25 PM), J.D. said:

Oops. I misread Lynn's original comment. Mea culpa.

On 12 November 2003 (03:39 PM), Dave said:

Well, I'm a proud owner of the Dick Tracy soundtrack. The song probably wasn't in the movie, because I think that the CD is "songs from and inspired by" the movie. The song in question is, I think, a part of a two song, back to back, run them together ongoing story in which Warren Beatty actually sings a part. It may have been a minor hit on the dance scene since this was Madonna's "Vogue" period. That song is on the album as well.

On 12 November 2003 (03:43 PM), Denise said:

It seems that in earlier decades older people were respected because of their life knowledge. Now it seems they are 'put up with' or even forgotten about by the young. That is tragic.

This reminds me of a scene from Parenthood (one of my favorite movies) where the Steve Martin's character and Mary Steenburgen's character (their married) are arguing over responsibilities and so forth while trying to herd their family into the car for their daughter's recital. The Grandma comes in and tells a tale about going to the carnival with Grandpa.

She goes on and on about how he took her on the rollercoaster and it was scary with all its twists and turns, and then she went on the ferris wheel. At the end of the story, she states that she liked the rollercoaster because with all the surprises, the ferris wheel just went around and around. "What fun is that?" she asked. "Well, I'm going to be waiting in the car."

(lines below are not completely accurate)
Mary Steenburgen: Your grandma is one smart lady.
Steve Martin: Yeah, I got a lot from her little story about the rides at the carnival.
Mary: blah, blah, blah...I think she's one of the smartest people I know.
Steve: Oh, yeah, well if she's so smart, why is she sitting in the neighbor's car?!?!

Anyway – my point is, old people know things, and we should listen.

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