In the old days, when you walked down the street by yourself you were in a little zone of quiet. If someone spied your lips moving they assumed you were talking to yourself. Nowadays, it seems like people don’t ever have to talk to themselves; there’s always someone on the other end of a phone or earpiece. I miss the good old days sometimes, and I think it’s important to hold on to the quiet.

It was such a beautiful day yesterday. I sat at my desk for the whole morning and then it was time for lunch. I pulled a chair in front of the big 10th story window and just sat there, eating my salad and looking out at the sunny world. It felt strange to Just Sit. And I wasn’t even Just Sitting; I was sitting and eating. But I wasn’t looking at my phone or my computer and I felt strangely conspicuous.

When I left the office I was struck by how many people were out and about. There was a carefree abandon in the air – it being a beautiful day and the Friday of a holiday weekend and all. I felt pretty good myself, and gratefully anticipated the walk home.

There’s still quite a bit of construction in the Lloyd district, so I had to make a few detours. I passed lots of people yakking on their phones and thought some more about how strange it is to walk down the street having a conversation with an invisible presence. I still remember when, as a child, we had one phone and it was tied by a cord to the wall above a desk. Phone conversations happened there or not at all.

I found myself walking behind a family of four: a shirtless man with dark hair down to his waist, a boy of about seven, and a pretty young woman pushing a stroller. The man was lagging a little behind. I could hear him talking but could see the mom talking with the boy at the same time. Then I realized that the man was on the phone. They all seemed very cheerful.

We got to the corner and there was another detour. The woman saw me coming up behind them and said, “I think we’ll just let you go ahead. It feels good here in the shade, anyway!” We agreed that it was a wonderful day and she told me they were taking the kids to play in the fountain. “But first we have to go to the Dollar Store to buy a towel.”

Happy Family

The man had passed the phone to the boy and I heard him say, “Hi Grandma!” I stopped and said I wanted to talk for a minute if that was okay. I think what I said was “I’m hoping you can help me out with something,” because I remember the woman smiling and saying “I’ll try.”

The boy was still talking on the phone a mile a minute and the mom snuck a glance at him every so often. I told her about honoring my mom and how I was paying forward a gift she had given me. “What is it?” she asked, with undisguised curiosity.

“It’s this,” I said, handing her a hundred dollar bill. She froze for a few seconds, then she spun around, looking behind her. “Oh, my god! For real?? Is this a show? Am I on TV?” Then she gave me a big hug. I told her there weren’t any gimmicks; it was just a gift with no strings attached. “It seems like most everyone could use a little help these days,” I said.

Alana and the two Johnnys

“Yes! Oh, my god! This is so amazing! We just found out I’m pregnant! That’s why we’re calling everybody!” At some point the boy had gotten off the phone and was standing there, watching and smiling. The woman told me her name was Alana and introduced her husband (Johnny) and the two kids. “That’s Johnny Jr.,” she said, pointing to the older boy. “I’m seven!” said Johnny Jr. “Look at this slingshot!” He had two sticks he was holding together into a “Y”.

She pointed to the child in the stroller. “And his name is Foxx. With two Xs.” The little guy looked at me shyly. Johnny Jr. came over and gave his brother a squeeze. Then he made us all laugh with a joke he’s probably told before. “He’s not quiet like a fox, though!” he said.

But he was. Foxx didn’t say a word the whole time.

Johnny, Jr. and Foxx



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