Friday, August 22, 2008
Today Ernie and I handed out food to old people. We volunteer for a program called “Meals on Wheels.” It’s a nice break from the office and it feels great to get out and mingle with the elderly.
Ernie wore his custom made T-Shirt. It has an outline drawing of an open mail box on the front. It was appropriate for the day as we were delivering pre-made hot dinners, but when I asked Ernie why he chose the design, he didn't have a good response.
ERNIE: “I just saw the mailbox and liked it. So I had it ironed on my shirt.”
At one stop, a sweet old lady sits on her front step smoking a cigarette. Next to her is a little white dog on a leash, yapping. “I get juice!” The senior citizen exclaims with a loving smile.
ERNIE: “No you don’t. It says here you get milk.”
Her expression changes all at once from complete joy to absolute despair.
OLD LADY: (Whimpering.) “Oh, I guess that’s OK.”
JAKE: (Scowling at Ernie.) "Are you sure?"
ERNIE: “Wait a minute.” (Examining the paper more closely.) “You’re right, you do get juice. I'm sorry, I was reading from the wrong section.”
I smile at the woman and ruffle her dog’s head.
JAKE: “You’ll have to forgive him. He’s still learning the ropes.” (Shaking my head.)
OLD LADY: (Wiping away her tears.) “Kids these days."
ERNIE “What do you expect?” (Handing over the correct food with a small box of juice.) “Look who’s training me.”
OLD LADY: “Oh, that was a good one!”
The old lady crackles and the two giggle like ex-lovers who only see each other at night in their dreams. I smile and wish the lady a pleasant afternoon. Ernie says his goodbyes and we move onto our next delivery, leaving the woman behind us coughing up a lung.
Our next destination is laced with a very foul odor, much like three-day-old trout hiding in a wet ashtray. It is so unpleasant that Ernie won’t go inside, forcing me to make the delivery on my own. Later in his car, I ask Ernie if his wife farts or burps in front of him. He thinks about it for a moment.
ERNIE: “I don’t think so.”
JAKE: "Do you burp or fart in front of her?"
ERNIE: “I try not to. I'll typically leave the room or something.”
We stop by Wendy's on the way back to work and I buy Ernie a #3 combo meal with medium fries and a coke. Perhaps it is a foreshadowing of Ernie's future. I imagine youngsters delivering Meals-on-Wheels to a rosie cheeked, wrinkly old Muppet Ernie sitting on his porch all alone, drinking coke, his mailbox shirt in tatters, thinking of how he should have studied harder in school instead of bribing his teachers with banana cream pies.
The thought makes me happy and sad all at the same time.
Listen to the audio recording of this entry at: http://media.libsyn.com/media/jakespage/MyErnie_Meals_on_Wheels.mp3