1. A small, dark bird that lives near rivers and lakes.
2. An old man who has an unusual or slightly crazy way of behaving.
I am an old coot. Officially. Not the small, dark bird kind of coot, but the “unusual or slightly crazy” variety. Although strictly speaking a male phenomenon, nowadays a broadened definition includes old people of the feminine gender.
I was recruited for my new part-time volunteer job because I am an old coot. No one calls me that—at least to my face—but I wouldn’t be surprised if unknown persons refer to me as, “you know that old lady, the old coot, who lives in that house with the overgrown bushes…”
Or used to. I trimmed the bushes this week.
Anyway…our town’s farmers market opened for the season Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The old coot stand is manned (and womanned) by a group of seniors. We sit under a canopy providing much-needed relief from the sun. A sign hangs above that reads, “Old Coots & Company Giving Advice.”
I arrived early for my 9:00 a.m. shift, intent on making a good first impression, and settled into a metal chair. I observed people walk by accompanied by babies in strollers, older kids tagging along behind, and dogs. Folks wandered from one stand to the next, talking with vendors, buying fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and plants, local honey, breads, pies and muffins, and pasta, sometimes munching fresh-made crepes, breakfast sandwiches and coffee.
My co-workers wandered in and we proceeded to proactively invite folks to ask questions.
Want advice? Need advice? It’s free and worth the price!
All sorts of questions came our way:
· How do you cook kale?
· Where is the nearest bathroom?
· I’m having my first baby. Advice?
· My three kids live in three different states. Where should I move?
· A current town controversy is the distribution of new trashcans, much larger than the old ones. Folks asked about the cans – Do you like them? Do we have to use them? Why the f*** did they change them?
· Construction crews are working on my street. How early can they start?
· What are market hours?
· Which stand sells coffee?
· A band played music in one corner. Folks complained there was no shaded place to sit and listen.
· Where can we buy beach badges?
· How old do you have to be to become an old coot?
My hour and a half shift passed quickly. Replacements drifted in and I surrendered my seat. It was my turn to stroll around market and make my purchases. I filled bags with local products–lettuce, spring onions, tomatoes, asparagus and more, and headed home.
Until my next assignment as an old coot giving advice.