Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Brief Introduction to R.T.

Friday night, after a sit down family dinner with all the kids less one, my boy Nick and I headed out to the front porch to enjoy a drink and a smoke.  As more of the family joined us on the porch, Nick and I moved to the sidewalk so the smoke wafting from my cigar would not inconvenience them, and we noted a gathering of neighbors up the street enjoying each others company and cold beers.

I suggested joining them, so Nick and I headed up the street.  After we had joined the group, and had been sharing pleasantries for a few minutes, we all noted a late model Chevy pickup slowly rolling our way.  We’ve all seen this particular pickup on many an occasion over the years, and it is piloted by an older black gentleman who is a picker.  Not a picker such as is currently been made popular by the teevee show American Pickers, but rather an original old school picker who scouts neighborhood curbs for salvage or other goods deemed past their usefulness by households.

Anyway, the pickup slowly rolls to a stop in front of our little impromptu group and the old black gentleman leans out the window and says to us, “My, now that’s a nice looking family group.”  We all kind of chuckle at his observation, and I respond to him and say, “Well, only two of us are actually family,” as I point to my son, “the rest of us are just neighbors.”  The old gent responds with a slight chuckle, points to B’s girlfriend, Hil, and says in response to me, “Well, she looks just like you.”  I laugh at that remark and say, “That’s a resemblance I’ve never seen.”, and he says “It’s true, and she’s a good lookin’ girl.”

At this point of our conversation with the old gentleman, another car has approached, and as we live on a one way street where many of the neighbors park on the street, making circumvention of a stopped vehicle an impossibility, we are compelled to say goodbye and off the old man drives.

I think nothing more of this friendly interlude with the old gentleman until yesterday, when, once again shortly after supper, I’m standing out at the end of my driveway enjoying a smoke and slowly down the street rolls that late model Chevy pickup once again.  I wave to the old gent as he approaches, and he pulls right over and stops at the end of my driveway, so I approach and say “I see you’re out pickin’ again.”  The old guy casually chuckles and says to me, “Yep, that’s fer sure.”

I then reach my hand into the cab of the pickup and say, “Well, I’m John Venlet and I’ve seen you rolling the neighborhood streets for a number years.”  The old man shakes my hand and says with a smile, “I’m R.T., and I should be a familiar sight, I’ve lived right over on Norwood for 43 years now.”

I tell the old man I’ve lived right here for 20 years, now, and compliment him on the almost life sized stuffed donkey toy in the bed of the pickup, and as this little exchange ends, my daughter, with my granddaughter in her arms, approaches, so I introduce her and Sweet Baby Girl to R.T.  After they exchange greetings, and R.T. compliments us on Sweet Baby Girl, R.T. says to me, “You look a bit young to be a Grampa.  You can’t be more than 40.”  I laugh and say to R.T., “Actually I’m 52, but fortunately I’m aging pretty well.”  R.T. laughs and says, “Well, I’m 87.”, to which I respond, “Well, you sure don’t look 87, R.T.”, but R.T. avows that he is with a smile and a laugh.

We exchange a number of additional pleasantries, and as we are ending our conversation, R.T. says to me, “Do you need anything hauled away?”, and I say, “Not at the moment, R.T., but we are considering emptying some things out of basement, so I’ll look for you rolling down the street when we do this, and then we can do some business.”

R.T. then says to me, “No need to keep a watch out for me, let me give you my card.”, and he reaches up to his paper strewn dash, grabs a small card, and hands it to me.  I accept the card gladly, and immediately note that it is not a proper business card, but rather a piece of cardboard about 2 1/4 inches by 1 1/4 inches, not quite a rectangle, cut from an old shoe box or something, rubber stamped with R.T.‘s name, address, phone number and the words “Rubbish Removal & Light Hauling.”  Homemade advertising.

R.T. and I then shake hands, once again, and part ways.  Later in the evening, as I shared this story with friends, a number of them asked for R.T.‘s number, which I gladly shared, so I think R.T. is going to end up with a bit more business than just mine.  Besides my business, I’m going to see if R.T. will allow me to ride around with him for a couple of days while he picks, as I’m fairly certain that this 87 year old black man, who has lived in this neighborhood for 43 years, not only will have some interesting stories to tell, but whose own life story may very well be while not necessarily Homeric heroic, heroic none-the-less.

UPDATE:  At the suggestion of DeAnn, in comments, R.T.‘s card.

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Posted by John Venlet on 06/24 at 09:34 AM
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