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Friday, 1 June 2012

Old Man's pocket

When I was forty, or thereabouts, I put my hand in my pocket to retrieve a comb and recoiled in disgust: Old man’s pocket. It had come early.

I pulled out tissues, some as old as trilobites, forgotten sweets with wrappers slightly soiled, a small stone, a pen-top, crumpled till receipts, a fragment of chain, chalk, more tissues, an envelope…

The memories flooded back to a time when, as a boy, I delivered beer, wine, and spirits from a black cast-iron bike, with a huge metal basket attached to its front. Every Saturday I wobbled along Warbreck Moor, delivering much needed alcohol to elderly men and quite a few women, too.

There was this old guy who invariably asked me to retrieve the money from his trouser pocket. Nightmare stuff. 

‘Arthritus,’ he said, brandishing two tobacco stained claws. 

He watched me while I fumbled; a smile on his face. It was like scrabbling in a damp waste-tip: soiled ten-shilling notes, sixpences and fluff, handkerchiefs that hadn’t seen light since Dunkirk, a half cigarette…
Every child confronts horror, and some far worse than an old man’s pocket. But I was a squeamish child.
And am I glad to use that word again? Squeamish: Great word.

But I neither squirmed nor squealed. I just counted the change and washed my hands after.
The question now, however, was had it come at last to me, prematurely early: ‘old man syndrome’? Unkempt pockets replete with ecosystem. What would happen if I was ever run over?

My mother was always concerned I had clean underwear for such an eventuality. She’d never foreseen ‘old man’s pocket.’ 

It was my Damascene moment without the blinding light. I threw the contents of my pocket into a nearby bin then searched other pockets for similar evidence of advancing senility. Emptied them out.
A minimalist would swoon at my pockets today. You could eat in them so long as you cleared up after you finished: a wallet, two keys and a comb – and pockets and pockets to spare. Better than Botox, and along with clean underwear I am now prepared for the worst.


Maria Zannini said...

Ref: ...She’d never foreseen ‘old man’s pocket.’

Once you reach old man stage, you're on your own.

I think most men are neater than women. Greg keeps tidy pockets too. I'm the only one in the family who saves bits of this and that in my pockets. But I assumed it was due to my crow-like ways--fascinated by the odd and shiny.

LD Masterson said...

I'm not going to worry about my pockets. The day one of the grandkids sneezes and I produce a fresh tissue from inside my cuff, I'll know old age has arrived.

Adam M. Smith said...

Thanks for the laugh, Mike. I'd never considered "old man's pocket", but now that I think on it, my Grandfather had the same things going on - old handkerchief, chewing tobacco, wheat pennies, random buttons. *Briefly checks pocket, sighs* I'm not there, yet. And now I'll be on my guard.

Mike Keyton said...

Once you reach old man stage, you're on your own. True in more senses than one, Maria : ) Ref your pockets - you mean you don't wear a nice pretty frock?

LD - producing 'a fresh tissue from inside my cuff' made me smile. We all have our early warning signs!

Adam, ref previous point, it's always good to be your guard. Mind you some people devolve earlier than others. I've seen 'elderly' thirty year olds, their minds already set in fairly rigid patterns.

Shirley Wells said...

Ha. Thanks for the laugh.

I haven't considered Old Man's Pocket before. However, I've made a mental note to get Mr W to check his pockets when he gets home.

Mike Keyton said...

Shirley - hope it's not too unpleasant a surprise : )

Jay Paoloni said...

I never thought of Old Man's Pocket until now. Well, I sometimes find an old used kleenex, or a coin, or a receipt in the pockets of jackets I haven't used for a few months...
But that's still not enough to make it fall into the category of Old Man's, right?

authorinprogress said...

great concept and post, Mike...never thought of that before but then again I'm a woman and we mostly don't have pockets, just purses filled with dust and all manner of weird receipts etc...

Mike Keyton said...

No, Jay, but you're on the way there! : )

Nikki, I imagine that will be Arizona dust : )