I am sitting in the train eating my box of admittedly a bit boring but obviously very healthy and nice tasting curry rice I prepared for myself the evening before, when two people, a teenage girl and an elderly man, join me in the four-people compartment.
I am about to make space for the man when he says: “Oh, don’t worry, I don’t wanna disturb your having lunch, I can sit vis-à-vis.” “You don’t disturb me.”, I reply.
“I don’t want you to choke on your lunch when I nudge you while sitting down. You shall enjoy your lunch. By the way, your lunch looks very healthy, madam, I should have your habits.”, he continues.
I smile and answer: “The first impression is deceptive, sir, as I will for sure have some chocolate when I am home. The range is especially wide around the Easter holidays.” Now, it is not only me who smiles, but everybody else around us who is following our conversation, the teenage girl included.
“Oh yes, and cake.”, the man says. “Do you love cake as much as I do?”, I wonder. “And how I do, I have to speed up whenever I come across a bakery. That means, I would walk miles for a piece of cake.”, he answers with a childish smile in his face.
He surely is somewhere around eighty years old :0).
“I am on my way to the gymnastics class and we all go to the restaurant afterwards to have…. guess what?” “A piece of cake!”, I shout triumphantly followed by laughter from all sides.
“I so enjoy eating with friends sitting around long tables. Food is so beautiful and something that we should all enjoy. I think people who do not love to eat are strange.”, he makes clear.
“I once observed a man in a restaurant and he was reading a newspaper while literally stuffing the food into his mouth unconsciously. What a shame! Dining is best with a lot of friends around long tables.”, he repeats.
“It definitely is one of the great pleasures of life.”, I agree.
“Soon, the barbecue season starts and it is one of my favourite!”, he adds.
Then he recalls memories: “We went hungry during the Second World War and the post-war era and my father promised to pamper us with food once it would be available again. We fled several times within Germany in search of better food conditions. I remember how my grandmother and I were on the prowl during some nights in order to find something to eat. We looked for it everywhere and mostly found something, but the fields were guarded at the time.”
I am lost for words. Here is a man I am connected with through a seemingly simple conversation on my commute and I am taught history firsthand.
“And look how much we have in Switzerland these days! We have too much.”, he continues.
“Yes, definitely.”, I manage to mumble.
“When have times become better for your family?”, I want to know. “That was when we finally moved to Mannheim in 1951 and my father found a job. I grew up in Mannheim.”, he kindly answers.
“The situation only got better six years after the war was over…”, I reason astonished.
“Yes. Food is so precious, it should always be enjoyed. Enjoyed in good company.”, he tells me.
“You see, while I savour my lunch as best I can on my commute home, you were the one adding me company today and I really enjoy it. Thank you so much!”, I say.
Our train is nearing its final destination only about ten minutes after we met and started this conversation…
“I thank you, it is a joy to have this conversation with you. You know, my wife always tells me not to talk so much to people. But then this could not happen and I love it.”, he lets me know.
“Please keep doing it. The world is already either too loud or too silent, but the conversations inbetween do hardly take place anymore, I think. So please, keep talking to people! It is such a pleasure to have met you, I wish you all the love and good health.”, I encourage him.
“Yes, that is right.”
We leave the train and walk the way down from the platform together. He adds: “I also keep my brain fit by learning English in a cool group. We always have fun and the teacher adds beautifully to the wonderful atmosphere. Learning just makes more fun when you laugh a lot.”
As a teacher myself I am totally in line with him. “So we have our next conversation in English then?”, I suggest. “Oh, gosh no, I would need a translator.”, he waves aside. “Well, I can be your translator.”, I return. “Let’s stay with German.” he insists and lets me in on a little last story from his English lessons.
Then we bid farewell with gratitude and surely we both feel this fulfilling moment of human connection. So simple, yet so rewarding.
How do you feel when you talk to someone you don’t know (yet)? Feel free to comment or send me a message.