Amid red rocks, a baby boomer sees new tricks

Either we as baby boomers are stuck in our ways … or we think others are stuck in theirs. No matter which is true, BoomerCafé executive editor and co-founder Greg Dobbs recently learned that the world is indeed changing, and maybe he is too.

What’s that expression about “old dogs, new tricks?” We baby boomers are old enough to know it well. Which is why sometimes I have to get out of my comfort zone to appreciate new awakenings. That doesn’t have to mean an outing to the other side of the world. All it took for me this time was a recent road trip through the spectacular Southwest, from my home in Colorado to New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

For instance, over the course of almost 2,000 miles, I was the beneficiary of three earnest acts of kindness. Acts of kindness we saw regularly as kids, but these days? Not so much. And they materialized in three unlikely locations: gas station convenience stores.

The first was from the clerk behind a counter who told me “thank you” when I bought some coffee and dropped my change into her tip jar. I honesty can’t remember the last time anyone actually thanked me for that. As if the tip is just expected. Remember when the only people expecting tips were servers, taxi drivers, and bellhops?

Greg Dobbs

The second convenience store kindness came from a man who was in line to pay for something, and I guess I looked like I was in a hurry because when I took my place behind him, he stepped back and opened a space and said, “You go ahead, I’ve got all the time in the world.” Who does that these days?!

The third was when I went to a store’s restroom, but the door labeled “Men” was locked, so I went to the counter and asked if I needed a key and the clerk answered, “No, if the men’s room is locked, it means someone’s inside. But try the women’s room; if it’s open, you’re free to use it.” Don’t worry ladies, I left the toilet seat the way you like it.

Is any of these, standing on its own, meaningful? Actually, yes. People nowadays are too often unappreciative, too often hasty, too often discourteous. These weren’t.

An equally uncommon awakening came before I even got out of my home state, in the southern Colorado town of Saguache. Population last time they measured it? 480 souls. There’s a helpful sign in the little pocket park on 4th Street, by the way, that explains how to say the Native American name of the town, which also is the name of the county. The “g” in Saguache is silent. So is the “e.”

But saying Saguache right is not the best awakening there. The best is the pie. A charming café had a sandwich board out on the sidewalk advertising pie. You just gotta figure, it hadn’t come from Costco. Wasn’t there a law or something when we were kids that said, “When you see that someone’s got fresh pie, you have to stop and try it?” Anyway, this one was was fresh sweet homemade three-berry pie. They had chocolate creme and lemon merengue too. The women in back even proudly showed me where they make them. Unprocessed food. Prepared from scratch. With pride. If President Trump issues an executive order commanding that all pies be homemade and fresh like these, I’ll support it. They are too few and far between.

The highlight of my awakenings was a simple show of respect. It was for an elderly Native American who came into the breakfast room at a hotel where I stayed in the windswept town of Kayenta, Arizona, just south of Utah’s magnificent Monument Valley. He came to tell all who’d listen about his experience as a “Code Talker,” the Navajos in WW2 who used their uncommon tongue to conceal and protect American military communications from our enemies. Travelers all, everyone listened. No one left til he finished his story. Respect; what a concept.

Oh sure, I had a few “unawakenings” on the trip, like Arizona drivers who thrive on cutting into your lane at 80 miles-per-hour about a car-length ahead of you (unlike Colorado drivers, who tailgate a car-length behind you). And restrooms, where there’s still no uniformity, which leaves me standing in front of faucets or a paper towel holder or the soap dispenser waiting for something to happen automatically until a little light dawns on this aging baby boomer that says, “You do it yourself, stupid.” Yet another indignity we didn’t face growing up!

Colorado’s western slope

But those pale next to the munificence of the populace and the magnificence of the Southwest, and the 2,000 miles worth of reminders that we are very blessed people in a very beautiful part of America. That much hasn’t changed.

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