A crowded evening train home (in contrast to some trains plying this route).
An elderly gentleman and lady are comparing notes on city vs. country living, car-driving and age. Central Belt Shuffler’s ears prick up:
Elderly gentleman: ‘An old retired man hadn’t driven for 12 years. He got in his car, and started to drive the wrong way down a one-way street. A policeman recognised the driver, and flagged the car down to stop. “This is a one-way street.” “Constable, it’s just one way that I’m going, so clear the street.” [A dismissive flick of the wrist illustrates the anecdote.] Being an old-fashioned kind of policeman, he let him on his way, and then phoned the man’s family.’
Elderly lady: ‘My son is a research fellow in nanotechnology’.
Elderly gentleman: ‘Oh!’ (In a way that indicates he knows exactly what that means.) Then, ‘Now, you’ll have to put me right on that.’
Elderly lady: ‘That’s very very wee.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘I know!’
Elderly lady: ‘He works with diamonds. I can’t help but boast about him sometimes.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘He was born with a chip on his shoulder. All of them are after a certain time.’
Elderly lady: ‘I’ve got an iPad now. I use it for email and so on. I saw a 3-year-old the other day, swiping.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘They’re implanted.’
Elderly lady: ‘But I don’t use it for my bank account details. I don’t trust it. They can hack into your account.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘When they phone up and ask you to prove who you are by answering questions. Who are _you_?, I want to know.’
Elderly lady: ‘I don’t believe in those three questions. We don’t need computers.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘Well, I don’t. But the world does.’
Elderly lady goes to toilet.
Elderly gentleman turns to me: ‘How can you tell someone’s age in a lift?’
Me: ‘Enlighten me.’
Elderly gentleman, showing his thumb and then his index finger: ‘Whether they use this, or this.’ He points to my phone, on which (somewhat shamefacedly), I have been noting down their conversation with lightning thumb action.
Me (laughing): ‘Oh, I thought that was going to be a joke.’
Elderly gentleman: ‘Well, it’s quite funny.’
Me (looking up from my copy of The Bookseller): ‘Did you know that the take-up of ebooks is stronger in rural Scotland than anywhere else in the whole of the UK?’
Elderly gentleman: ‘Well, that’s not surprising. That goes back to John Knox.’
From thence on, the conversation skips by the smell of books, the merits of publishing church materials on Lulu, broad-based and specialised undergraduate education, teacher training for university lecturers, whether the grace of God is a noun, differing types of Spanish in the Peruvian jungle and Lima, how to stop your five-year-old swearing in Spanish (use ‘Ballachulish’ instead), The Ballachulish ferry/bridge, the Skye ferry/bridge, the new Forth road bridge/bring back the ferry, cycling in the city, and the possibility of a backy to the West End for the elderly lady, her suitcase and stick.
We parted at Queen Street.
Elderly lady: ‘This is why I like travelling on the train.’