As Good as it Gets

Life One Sip at a Time

I used to see him almost every day at the coffee shop, and then the pandemic hit, and, well, you know.

A tallish, sophisticated looking middle-aged man with his gray hair cut stylishly.

He would always sit at a table over in the corner and “hold court.”

I say that because his table was always filled with people coming and going, just stopping by to say hello.

I figured he must be someone important.

Suddenly, everything seems almost back to normal, and I saw him the other day.

He was dressed in a very nice Navy-Blue business suit and tie.

As my southern grandmother used to say, “He cleans up nice.”

This time he sat alone.

No one dropped by.

Few, if any, even greeted him in passing.

My curiosity got the better of me so I sort of sauntered over to his table and said, “You’re wearing a suit.”

He looked up from fiddling with his cell phone.

“What? Oh, this? Yeah. Job interview today.”

I said, “Mind if I sit down?”

“Go ahead. As you can see there’s plenty of room.”

I grinned.

“Speaking of which, where are all your friends? You usually have people waiting in line to sit at your table.”

He laughed humorlessly and stared upward toward the ceiling, saying, “Funny how that works. You spend your life helping people, and then when you’re out of a job, they’re nowhere to be found.”

“Lose your job?”

Staring levelly at me he said, “I suppose you could say that. But it’d be more accurate to say that I lost my passion.”

“What did you do?”

“Politics,” came his one-word answer. “And there’s nothing quite as worthless as an out-of-work politician.”

A paramedic unit rolled by outside, siren blaring, rendering conversation temporarily impossible.

“So, most of those people I used to see crowding around your table were, what, hanging out with you for political reasons?”

Sighing deeply, he said, “Not that I knew it at the time. In fact, I used to think I was quite the conversationalist. Had myself convinced that they liked me for, well, me…and not my position.”

“I’m sure that some did,” I said encouragingly.

“Where are they now?” he said hotly. And then as if realizing his anger, “Sorry. Now that I can’t do anything for them they won’t have anything to do with me.”

He sipped his coffee slowly as I inquired, “Do you mind me asking what kind of job you’re interviewing for?”

“Not at all,” he said. “It’s a job in sales. I figured that getting yourself elected is a pretty good track record of sales experience, not to mention all the assembly bills I sold to the legislature. I should be a natural.”

I nodded silently and then asked, “How’s your wife doing with all of this?”

Shaking his head sadly he replied, “She’s not. The marriage ended about a month after my career. New guy.” He shook his head some more, laughing humorlessly. “Politician. Go figure.”

“I’m sorry.”

He stared at me as if in appraisal.

“Well, enough about me. What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“You any good?” he asked.

Grinning widely, I winked and said, “I’ve been told.”

That made him laugh.

“You got a name?”

“RG,” I replied, stretching my hand across the space between us.

He shook my hand with a firm grip.

“Terry.”

“Nice to meet you, Terry.”

“Same here, RG. I used to see you here all the time before the pandemic, over there in the corner pounding away at a computer. Kind of figured you for a writer.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I used to write here a lot. I find the constant noise and movement of busy people on the go to be, well, insulating.”

He glanced absently down at his watch while saying, “You know that movie Nicholson did a few years back with Helen Hunt and the other fella…oh, what was his name?”

“Greg Kinear?”

“Yes. As Good as it Gets.” He seemed to steal away inside of himself for a moment or two before continuing, “I’ve been thinking of late that maybe this is it for me. You know, that this is as good as it gets, or more precisely as good as it’s going to be for the rest of my days. And it scares me, RG. If you want to know the truth, it scares the hell out of me!”

I really didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.

“Did you know,” he continued, “that people under the age of fifty have a forty-six percent greater chance of getting hired than those over fifty?”

“I didn’t know that, but it’s not surprising.”

He shook his head and then stood suddenly.

“Well, I’ve gotta’ get going. The interview’s in twenty minutes and I don’t want to be late.”

I stood and shook his hand once more.

“Next time I see you in here, Terry, I’m going to buy you a cup of coffee and let you tell me all about your new job.”

He said sincerely, “Thanks for the expression of confidence, RG. And I’ll do that…I’ll definitely do that.”

And with that, he was out the door and walking briskly toward his car.

It could’ve been my imagination, but I could swear he had a bounce in his step.

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