Sunday, April 6, 2014

196. Ailments

C.W. and I were taking a walk along the river in Little Rock and, for a change, I was enjoying his company. On occasion, he appears in a form very similar to the late writer William Faulkner, complete with herringbone sports jacket, hat, and pipe. At these times, he tends to be more contemplative and, … well listen to him.

“I’ve discovered something about your species,” he said, “that is quite unique in the galaxy.”

“Somehow, “I said, as a bicyclist sped by at a blinding speed, brushing my elbow and shouting an expletive. “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”

“I have learned,” he said, “that among the elderly, the greeting ‘How are you doing today?’ is not a question asked merely for effect with no answer expected.”

“A rhetorical question, in other words.”

“Why are you repeating me again?”

I said, “Never mind. Continue.”

“Gladly,’ he said, puffing his pipe. A woman pushing a baby stroller met us going the opposite direction and made exaggerated hand motions to wave away the smoke. He tipped his hat to her. She huffed along. “What I have learned,” he said, “is that when asked that question, old folks will begin to describe their physical conditions in great, and unwanted detail, and why they do that I don’t know, unless they think the whole thing is important and it would never be that at all unless you were close to them in some way and not a complete stranger.”

“You might want to work on your sentence structure,” I said.

“I have been,” he said. “Can’t you tell?”

“Go on.”

“So,” he said, “is there no physical condition that is so intimate, so personal and evolutionarily basic, that some of you will forbear sharing the details with a stranger?”

“What kind of details?”

“Well,” he said, as we stopped to admire a particularly beautiful view of the Little Rock skyline and a teenager walked past us punching a message into her phone, “the question I mentioned can certainly elicit a detailed description of some current ailment or a recent visit to a person’s physician.” He puffed. “They certainly like to share that one with you—the visit to their doctor.”

I nodded and we continued to walk.

He said, “Bowel movements. That’s another.”

"Bowel movements?”

“Bowl movements. Popular topic. I’ve had more than one old soul begin telling me about her digestive ailments, simply because I asked how she was doing.”

I couldn’t disagree with him.

He continued, “Not only frequencies, but personal characteristics, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m afraid I do,” I said.

One of the interesting things about you
is your ability to talk to strangers. - C.W.
“Then I had one,” he said, “attempt to tell me about her aged husband’s attempts to perform actions she hadn’t been interested in since the Reagan Administration.”

“Oh dear,” I said.

“You may not think it odd,” he said. “But on Falloonia, we keep such information to ourselves.”

At this point, we were interrupted by the reappearance of the woman in the baby stroller, this time with a police officer in tow. He suggested C.W. might want to extinguish his pipe. He did, and after some heated discussions, we continued our walk.

“Well,” he said, “enough about me. How have you been?”
“A little irregular, I’m afraid.”

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