Tom sat at the small town coffee shop sipping on his fancy coffee drink that not even he could pronounce the name of, thumbing through his most recent facebook posts and reading the comments.
He was what some people may call a hipster type new age kid, trying his best to grow a lumberjacks beard and wear flannels.
Tom was sitting at the table furthest from the entrance with his back to the wall so that he could observe the crowds rushing in to get their morning coffee fix.
He glanced up from his phone to see an elderly man enter the shop with a beard that Tom was a little envious of. The man ordered just a black coffee and began looking around for a place to sit.
He had a newspaper with him, and his white hair was combed neatly to the side as to cover up a bald spot on the one side.
He spotted the table next to where Tom was sitting and began to make his way over.
Tom reverted his attention back to his phone as the man took his seat next to him, trying to ignore the elderly man that was now coughing loudly.
“Excuse me.” The elderly man said to Tom. “Do you have an extra napkin that I may use?”
“Sure.” Tom replied handing the man a few extra napkins that he pulled from the dispenser on the table.
“Thank you very much.” Said the man. “You know i’m curious about something, if you don’t mind me asking what is it that all you youngsters do on those phones all day?”
“Nothing much.” Tom answered. “Mostly talk with friends and share pictures and what not.” Tom continued to look at his phone, avoiding eye contact with the man.
“Well I just think that’s a waste, don’t you? I mean when my grandkids come over I can barely get them to say two words to me because they’re so damn busy with their phones.
They hardly look up from them much less hold a conversation, I just don’t think that's very healthy. It’s important for people to interact with people.
Not just through phones and computers and crap like that, I mean real human interaction.” The man went on.
“I mean since i’ve been sitting here even you haven’t taken your eyes off that screen and looked up at me.
” The man took a sip of his coffee and began to unfold the newspaper that sat on the table in front of him.
“Sorry if it sounds like i’m ranting or judging, I just don't understand the appeal in my old age I guess.” Tom hit the lock button on his phone and slid it into his pocket.
“No need to apologize.” Tom said. “I actually understand what your saying, and I agree with you. I’m sorry for coming off rude.
How old are your grandkids?” Tom asked trying to start conversation.
“One’s twelve, and the other fifteen. I usually get to see them about a week out of the summer, wish it were more often though.”
“Do they live in the area?” Tom asked.
“No, they moved with their dad after their mom, my daughter passed away about three years ago, he’s doing the best he can but it’s tough.
That’s why it's so frustrating that I can’t get them to put up the phones and interact with me a little more.
We all only have so much time on this planet, and I hate to see it wasted glued to a phone screen.
I wish that they wanted to know their grandpa a little more instead of what celebrity slept with who, ya know?
” The old man took another sip of coffee, folding the paper back to its original state.
“ I can see how that's frustrating. I never really got to spend much time with my grandparents, and looking back now I wish i had. After my grandpa passed from cancer, my grandma just gave up.
She passed less than two years after he did.” The old man was looking at him, and Tom could tell that he was truly listening.
“I’m very sorry to hear about that.” He said with an apologetic look. “Are you a religious man?”
“Not really.” Tom replied. “I’d like to think that there’s something more out there but I dunno. It’s tough to imagine something so unknown.”
“Fair enough.” The man nodded as he stroked his beard. “Ya know, I’m not very religious either, but it helps keep me going believing that I may see my parents, wife, and daughter again someday.
For now I’m just an old man living alone biding his time left.” Tom gave the man a puzzled look.
“Time left?” He asked.
“Yea, I found out just last week that I'm dying. I mean, we’re all dying, but my days are very limited.” Tom wanted to ask more, but didn’t want to pry.
“I’m sorry, have you told your grandkids yet?”
“No, i’ve been trying to figure out a way to break the news to them, but one thing sounds just as bad as the other.
Ya know the scariest thing about dying isn’t the actual dying for me as much as it is dying alone. Scares the hell outta me.
” The man reached for his coffee and Tom could see his hands trembling. Tom finished off his own drink, slurping at the whipped cream at the bottom of the cup.
“So there’s no one that can be with you?” Tom asked unsure if it was to much. “Or maybe you can go down and stay with your grandkids for a while.” Tom was trying to make the man feel better.
“No, i wouldn’t want them to be around that, wouldn’t be fair to them. Best that I just pass quietly and out of the way i suppose. Wouldn’t want to be a burden to anyone else.” The man chuckled.
“Well you live here in town right? Maybe I can come visit you from time to time to give you some company?” Tom said.
The man's eyes began to swell with the kind gesture from Tom, and a tear began to roll down his cheek.
“You know i’d really like that.” The man said with a warm smile. “And to think if you hadn’t put that phone down we never would have gotten to talking with each other.
You’ve just made my entire week.” The man said gleefully.
The two of them exchanged information, and the only time Tom got his phone back out was to enter the man's number into it.
They shared stories and had many laughs together over the next few months, getting to know each other extremely well.
Tom had learned how to weld from the man, and was now in the process of opening up his own weld shop.
The man had passed away quietly one night, but Tom will always remember the biggest lesson he learned from him.
There is no substitute for human to human interaction, you never know who you may get to know if you put the devices away and just talk to others.