Then it was my turn.
I wondered where I would feature in the cohort. Would I be one of the young and restless, who only require a quick transaction so that their vivacious existence could continued unabated. Or would I be viewed as part of the geriatric crew, who patently required a little friendly banter to help them struggle on through until sundown.
I laid my milk and bananas on the counter.
“How are you? How are things with you today?”
I am old.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. I am, after all, a mere notch off being sixty. My beard, this morning, was un-mowed and tatty. My eyebrows windswept and pillow ridden. My eyes glazed over from an abundance of Friday night slumber. Of course I was going to be chatted-to. Of course I was going to be old.
I confirmed that I was indeed as well as could be expected for a person in my condition and asked for a lottery ticket. A Quick pick (with the plus). I have a curious relationship with the lottery. Years ago, I cultivated six favourite numbers that I played every week. They were good numbers. Once, a full five of them came up and I collected a low four figure sum in cash at the post office, thank you very much. But the recurring six figures became just another small burden to lug around with me on my slow journey to the tomb so I gave them up. Instead, I started avoiding all lottery results in case, by abandoning my numerical travelling companions, I inadvertently discovered that I had made one of the worst mistakes of my life.
So now I just play once a week, with randomly chosen numbers picked by the machine behind the counter, which I ask for when I get my Saturday morning breakfast groceries at the local shop. Just another old gentleman in the queue, seeking fortune and some easily digestible fruit.
“Can I get a Quick pick, please. Six Euro with the Plus.”
The girl went to work on her machine.
“If you win,” she announced, “I’m coming with you.”
This shook me a tiny bit. I could just about bear the ‘old man’ categorisation, but I had no idea I had suddenly grown so very non-threatening. I wasn’t sure what to reply.
“Thanks,” I said, which, in retrospect, sounded quite wrong.
She handed me my ticket, having ascertained that last week’s ticket was, as usual, a complete dud. She looked at me rather intently as I filed the new ticket away in my back pocket.
“What would you do?” she asked.
“If you won. What would you do?”
The queue behind me shuffled. Either they were young and needed to rapidly restart their glamourous lives or else they were old, like me, and just shuffled naturally.
I thought about the question. Somehow it seemed more than one of those random old person banter-bytes. What would I do?
“I’d quit work,” I volunteered, “yes, I’d quit work.
“Oh, they all say that,” she replied and I figured she meant all the old folk she interviewed, because she clearly didn’t poll the young go-getting folk, “they all say they’d give up work…”
She leaned over the counter a little more. Her blue eyes were rather piercing. Perhaps she did intend to run away with me after all, if I ever assembled sufficient money.
“What would you really do?”
I am very rarely at a loss for a couple of words but, this time, I was at a loss. I really was. What would I do? Would I even want to give up work. I'm often restless after as little as a week off.
The girl quickly saw that she had pressed the old geezer too hard. She had confused him and caused him to drift away in his mind, probably to memories of the Great War or Cowboy Times. She threw in a couple of suggestions, to try to kickstart my poor old brain.
“Would you go on a holiday, maybe? Buy a new car?”
I snapped out of it. I had to. There was a rising mutinous aura coming from the queue.
“Yes, yes,” I doddered, "I’d go on holiday and buy a car.”
“Good plan,” she said.
Then I gathered up my things and left, feeling twenty years older than when I came in.
As I walked to the car, I could feel the effect wearing off. I became young again. My steps got stronger and a dog, who was clearly thinking of messing with me, instead turned tail and slunk away. I was restored.
But the question lingered. It lingers still. What would I do? Give up work, take a holiday, buy a car. Yes, yes, yes… But what would I really do?
The only conclusion I have come to, as I sit and type this, is that I really don’t know what I’d do… but I’d sure as hell like to find out.
So watch this space. This week’s numbers look strangely promising.
All may yet be revealed.