Gentle Men

GENTLE MEN

It wasn’t a particularly long queue, but judging by the meanderings of the ladies ahead of me it could take a while before I would be smelling coffee with my friends, who already had been served. 

I resumed a patient manner and gazed beyond the ladies as they distracted over lemon slices and rocky roads. 

It was then I caught his eye. A kindly gentleman stood calmly waiting for his order to be prepared.  I smiled and he winked in acknowledgement.  

At last the ladies made their choices and payments and it was my turn. ‘Cappuccino please,’ said I. The kindly gentleman received his order just then. Two fine glasses of lattes complete with saucers and spoons. It looked tricky. ‘Would you like a tray?’ I asked him, seeing he had none. ‘That would be lovely,’ he replied. I fetched the tray and as he prepared to leave the counter he turned to me. ‘You are an angel, a real one,’ he said to me. ‘I don’t know about that,’ I replied a little surprised by the extent of his gratitude. ‘Oh, yes, you are!’ he confirmed, ‘you just don’t know it.’ 

There was something very comforting about the way he said it. As I reached the table where my friends were sitting, I looked across and saw the gentleman with his pals. ‘This is how angels recognise each other,’ I thought, as I considered the warm exchange.

Coffee was good and needed as it was a particularly wet day. Standing in the bus queue later, laden with bags, did not seem so unfortunate having been infused with coffee and the company of angels. 

The bus was packed on arrival but there was standing room for many more. I piled on with my bags of study books and art utensils finding a not so comfortable standing spot squeezed between other bodies. 

One stop later a seat became available towards the rear of the bus. I counted to five and since the other standing passengers made no move I set my sights on claiming it. 

An elderly gentleman was sitting there at the window. He was dressed quite elegantly with a hat and overcoat. Just as I approached he leaned sideways a little. ‘Do you want to get out?’ I asked him. ‘No, I was waiting for you,’ he replied a little twinkle-eyed and with kindly smile. ‘Well, it worked out well for both of us so,’ I replied with amusement.  

The fact that he did not proceed with further conversation added to the affection of his remark. I was aware of his silent company and I noticed how his left hand had a little shake, a reminder of the conditions that people sometimes have to live with. He appeared to be at peace with his condition and this too was in some way comforting to me.

My stop approached and as I gathered my belongings he turned to say goodbye, I returned the gesture and bid him a good day. 

I made my way towards the front of the bus and as I stood amongst the passengers waiting to disembark, I noticed something very different this time round. 

The bus glided slowly and gently to the stop. There was no need to brace or hang on tightly to the rails. As the doors opened, I made my way towards the steps saying ‘thank you’ to the driver as many passengers in Ireland do. I halted and turning to the bus driver I remarked, ‘you’re a very good driver!’ He looked surprised but uttered, ‘Thanks!’ and added, ‘ I appreciate that.’

I considered the gentility of men as I reached my home, thinking of how powerful and special the effects can be. Here’s to the gentility of men and thank you for extending your gentility to me.

©Caroline Cunningham 15th March 2013

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