April 7, 2011


Today I headed to the book section of the Dollar Store. The previous day, I’d paid too much for a second novel by Haruki Murakami (blog: 3/15/2011) and was shopping for bargains as a sort of “hair of the dog” remedy for my binge. After a few minutes of rifling through books tumbled into a bin, I found a copy of Michael Moore’s 2001 block buster, “Stupid White Men.” 

Happily, I tucked my find under my arm and was making my way to the sales counter, when someone called out my name. Turning, a tall man was standing before me. He was near my age and I recognized him at once as a rival from my political past.

Years ago, he had headed a quasi-government agency, meaning it was partially funded with taxpayer money, and once a year, during the County budget sessions, he and I would spar about whether or not the finances of his organization should be open to the public. As a commissioner, I insisted. As an agency head, he resisted and did so with the air of a patrician which left me feeling small even though I sat high on a dais.

I regret I neither convinced him nor my political colleagues on the matter of transparency and so in time, my annual sparring with this man became pro forma rather than an occasion to convince anyone — though years later, another set of commissioners took up the argument and won.

Seeing the man after all this time — both of us retired; both of us looking relaxed and happy — the fellowship of old warriors who’d laid down their arms crept between us. I was pleased to see him looking well, and he seemed pleased to see me. We discussed the merits of the books on the shelves around us, discovered we’d purchased some of the same titles and shared our opinions of them. 

Before we parted, I laughed at being found scrounging for bargains at the Dollar Store. Hearing me, he smiled down from his imperial heights. “We’re too old to care what others think of us, aren’t we?”  

I returned his smile but despite the fellow feeling of old age, even then I might have quibbled: “The truth is others aren’t thinking of us at all.”