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Mack Williams column: Becoming a ‘hipster’

The title of this column doesn’t refer to alternative fashion, but instead inflammation of that ball and socket joint of the hip — in my case, the right one.

Fortunately, my problem showed up some days after Oct. 24. I note that date because that evening I attended the East Rowan Class of 1969 mini-reunion at D.J’s Restaurant. The get-together was lovingly arranged by classmate Cynthia Dwiggins so her fellow classmates could join in fellowship in the 45th year since their graduation.

If the reunion had been several days later, I would have been the only one there using the aid of a cane or walker; and although that is certainly no sin, it kind of cramps an old guy’s style. Don’t worry, I’m past the age of trying to do any “picking up.” (But I am available to be the “pickee.”)

The doctor made lower spine and pelvic photographs, but there was no break or fracture, so that’s why he said “inflammation.” (Is inflammation the new arthritis?) Despite the lack of anything medically scary on those X-rays, they sure would have made a great Halloween door decoration!

One evening, I portrayed Danville’s first mayor, James Lanier, on the Grove Street Cemetery Halloween Tour sponsored by the Danville Museum. While seated in a chair atop his grave, I reminded myself that my “pained” bones were still preferable to the “unpained” ones below.

Before going to the doctor, I had started out with a cane; nothing wooden and classy like a shillelagh, but a four-pod something made of aluminum and painted aqua.

Outside the doctor’s office, a woman offered to walk with me to my car, then wanted to know if I could spare a few dollars, saying, in effect, those immortal words uttered by the character “Dub” on “The John Boy and Billy Show”: “Hey, big man, let me hold a dollar!”

The same woman shortly showed up at the same pharmacy as I did, getting her prescription filled also. She asked me what medicine I had received. (In my mind appeared that scene in the World War II movies where the U-boat captain shouts “alarm.”)

I said “hydrocodone,” and she said, “Can I have a couple?” (Paraphrase of Dub: “Hey, big man, can I hold a pill?”) I told her that I was sorry, but the degree of my pain was such that I would surely need all of those pills over the course of the next week.

She succeeded in getting those few dollars, but not some pills. If I were going to start handing out pills in a parking lot, even prescribed ones for free, I knew that instead of driving home, I should transport myself straight to the city jail and enjoy whatever amenities they provide.

I did feel sorry for the unfortunate woman, visibly aged far beyond her years.The phrase best describing her is the one often used by my Old-Western film-fan friend David Shatterly, probably used by his also Western-fan brother Ralph: “Rode hard and put up wet!” (I mean nothing indelicate here; this old Western phrase refers only to an exhausted horse).

On Reformation Sunday, I was asked to sing “A Mighty Fortress” “auf Deutsch” from the church’s balcony. I took the curving, polished, snake-like wooden bannister in hand and slowly ascended.

I saw an analogy between the bannister and Moses’ “snake staff,” but the analogy ends there, because I don’t need the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s specter  telling me: “Up here, I know Moses, and you’re no Moses!” (That would be a fitting role for the late senator, being the patron saint of pointing out such things.)

A few days later, as I hobbled into a local Danville Food Lion, two women stopped to help (kindness, not dollars or hydrocodone as motivation). I suddenly thought that although a cane isn’t a sports car, it might possess some sort of strange “chick-magnetism.” (Just now, I thought of the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey’s nickname, “The happy warrior.”)

During all of this, my empathy for those who move slowly has been increased, despite having almost run over a few of them while “speeding” with the Food Lion motorized buggy-cart.

Summing up, I’m wonderfully surprised by the number of people who have offered their assistance to me during the course of what I hope will be a brief infirmity.

A little old man is succeeding, just by the very sight of him, in bringing out the best in some of his fellow men (and some fellow women too).

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