In Praise of the 99!

“Good morning George!”

“And who’s this young chap?” George grinned his toothless smile.

The young chap, unphased by George’s gummy grimace piped up, “I’m three today! Three. I’m a big boy now!”

George chuckled, “Very nearly old chap. Very nearly.”

“Yes, he’s quite excited. This is his first trip on a bus!” The lady lingered and nervously fiddled with her ticket.

“Shame it’s not a double decker. You sit up hiiiiggggghhhhh above the world.” George started on his usual banter which had all his regulars in the seats behind start to hoot and holler, “Are we moving yet George?”

“Always in a hurry the youth of today, young whippersnappers!” He hunched his shoulders and pointed at a group of aged pensioners waving their brolleys and papers trying to catch the driver’s attention.

The group of people sat a few rows back sighing with relief as George crunched the gears and pulled away.

“Three is it?”

“My names Toby Thomas Grace and I’m three!”

The old people chuckled, all separately remembering their own grandchildren, children, their own first trip on the bus.

“My grandson’s five very soon and starts school in the summer. I don’t know where the years have gone!” one of the old ladies confided to the younger grandmother as she took her seat as the bus lurched around a parked car.  She took the toy that was proffered to her and looked at it knowledgeably.

“You’re quite old to have such a young grandson Vera,” her neighbour piped up.

“I’m 78 this year!” she said proudly, “Yes, a ripe old age!”

The lady opposite tutted.

“And why the tut Ethyl?” Vera asked tersely.

“78! That’s no age. I’m 80!” She looked around at the gathered oldies thinking she had played her trump card. Ethyl had the look of a walnut, weathered, crinkled, hard outer casing and she was known for throwing her weight around in the local W.I. citing her vast experience as the reason for the younger members to hark to her every uttered comment as she commandeered them for her purposes.

Why did old age do that to some people?

The lady behind smiled a far off gleam, her face lighting up as she reminisced. “I remember my 80th as if it was yesterday!”

There was a brooding silence and she glanced up at the stares, the glares. Realising what they were waiting for she giggled, “I’m 87 me!” And she said it with such lightness of countenance that the others forgave her her age and the fact she was the most senior of the group.

“You’ve never told us how old you were. You look younger than that!” Ethyl seemed a bit put out to say the least.

“It’s not important is it?” Margaret piped.

Ethyl eyed her distrustfully, “For some it might be!”

“You don’t trust me?”

“Never trust anyone who doesn’t display their age on their face!” Ethyl stated forthrightly.

“And have a face like a sour shrivelled apple!” Vera had seen her chance and had delivered her valediction with aplomb as she swung herself to her feet and swayed unsteadily, ready to get off.

Margaret called out to George just as he swung the bus into the next stop, “Hey George, you can tell her. I remember my sixth birthday and getting on your bus your first day driving. Tell them how old I am!”

George glanced in his mirror at the sea of upturned faces as his passengers juggled numbers in their head. He saw the tide of panic sweep down the bus and grinned his toothless grin as he gunned the engine and swung out into the blaring traffic. Yes he remembered as if it was yesterday!

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