I had trouble opening up my ketchup packet during date night at the pub this weekend, and handed it desperately to Christopher, who also struggled (I swear the packets are different here!) “Let me have that,” an older man sitting next to us called out, grabbing and opening it in one swoop. We thanked him and continued on with our date, talking about insignificant things, while he sat alone, sipping his beer and reading a newspaper about cars. Every once in a while I looked over to see him checking in on us, like he wanted to be a part of the conversation but didn’t want to impose.
Finally, we invited him in. “So, are you an Oxford native?” Christopher asked. In the amount of time it took him to say yes, he had moved his backpack over to our booth and asked if it was okay if he sat down with us. “Of course!” we said, moving our plates around to make room. “So, have you lived here your whole life,” we asked.
“No,” he said. “I’m not dead yet.”
We asked him what places we should go to while we’re here. “Coco Noir,” he said, talking about a little chocolate shop on one of the main streets in our neighborhood. “Tell them Dick sent you, they’ll probably charge you twice as much.”
After a lesson on proper English ale, Dick asked if it was okay if he bought us a round, saying we needed to experience it immediately. Over the next 45 minutes, he told us which TV series we needed to watch (“Foyle’s War”), what movie we needed to find (“Doctor at Large”–for Christopher), and as I jotted these down in my cell phone, told a hilarious story about how he threw his smart phone away because it was just way too confusing.
The night winded down, and we headed out in the same direction. He walked briskly for someone who had a quadruple bypass not that long ago. I honestly couldn’t keep up. We parted ways and said goodbye, leaving him to walk the rest of the way with his backpack and pedometer, wondering if we’d ever run into him again.
And then we did… the very next day at the grocery store. I had decided the night before that he definitely needed to go into this blog and was kind of bummed that I didn’t get a pic of him (because if I keep telling stories of all these fascinating people I’m meeting and not including pics, you might think I’m making them up!)
“Of course,” he said. “How are we going to do this?”
I pulled out my smart phone and showed it to him.
“Ah yes. Are we doing a selfie?” he asked, very impressive for a man who admitted he loathed technology. “See–I know what that means…”
And so, we took our selfie among the deli meats and cheeses, documenting our encounter with a real Oxford native who will forever be remembered for saving date night by opening up my ketchup packet…