the old man and the gumball

Written by Duane Scott

GENERAL EDITOR I'm a writer, nature lover, a friend, a singer (in the shower), a Cheetos lover and a Snuggie hater. And God and I are buddies.

May 19, 2011

I stand in a throng of people, yet I’m alone.

People rush from one store to another, hands filled with shopping bags. Small clusters of teens move slowly through the mall, obviously more interested in gossip, laughter, and fun than spending their advance allowance.

I know, because I used to be them.

The other people, most of them toting a kid or two, dart around the slow walkers, bee-lining their way from one store to another, possibly returning the shoes their son refuses to wear and buying hand soap at Bath & Body Works.

I know, because I used to be the kid trying to keep up with mom.

A few older gentlemen amble past. I notice their grandpa sneakers. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re barely outdated, like they came from the clearance rack, and even though they are last year’s models, they look oddly out of place on an elderly man. “Just getting their exercise,” I think to myself, “But why are they inside when it’s 70 degrees outside?! I’d way rather walk around the lake.”

And since I didn’t know anything about what makes elderly people do the things they do, I followed them closely, careful not to lose them in the crowd.

I laughed when, the one that took short quick steps, snuck up behind someone he knew and tapped their shoulder. His face broke into a smile, he said a greeting, then walked on, his buddy by his side.

I figured they were going to turn around when they got to Macy’s at the edge of the mall, and not wanting to be a full-out stalker, decided against following them back the way we had just come.

That’s when I saw one of the men whisper to the other and nod in the direction of a kid begging next to the large display of bubblegum machines.

The man dug in his pocket and I slowed my walk, expecting him to deliver a Hallmark moment for me.

The old man knelt, put a quarter in the bubblegum machine closest to the child, then turned the crank. Momentarily, the kid quit his whining, and watched the man bending next to him, possibly holding his breath to see what color of gumball was going to pop out.

The man looked at the child and reached for the gumball.

Then, very slowly and dramatically, he popped it in his mouth and walked away, leaving the kid staring in dismay.

I laughed out loud.

I still don’t know what makes elderly people do the things they do, and I wondered if maybe the grandpa was trying to teach a lesson to the kid.

Whining will get you nowhere.

But as I laughed again, I knew better.

Just because they have gray hair doesn’t mean they lack spunk. And just because they wear outdated sneakers doesn’t mean they can’t be ornery sometimes. They’re still human, after all.

As I walked to my car, I suddenly couldn’t wait to grow old and ruin a Hallmark moment or two.

-Duane Scott


  1. Sheila


    Wait. It’ll come (being old) more quickly than you can imagine! 🙂

    At 52 I’m much closer to elderly than I am to young, I think. Here at midlife, I find that “what makes me do the things I do” hasn’t changed so much. The motivation is the same: I act to meet goals, choosing a course of action based on what I can observe of the situation, with options for my course of action filtered through past experience.

    But the goals change as I age. And the filter of experience grows and grows and grows.

    Enjoy your youth. Cheers!  

  2. rupzip

    What a great story that had me laughing out loud! 

  3. HisFireFly

    I can see it!  I have no problem at all imagine you as that man, a bit crusty and snarky.  But I also know your heart, and you would wait only a few moments before calling him back and presenting him with a prized gumball of his own. 

  4. Jason Vana

     You don’t need to wait until you’re old to do that. You can do it now! lol

    • Logan Beaty

      Spoken like a true grandpa… 😛

      • Jason Vana

        Don’t make me eat deer jerky right in front of you and not give you any!

        • Logan Beaty

          Um…do you have any teeth left with which to eat said jerky? Besides, I’ve got deer fajitas at home. Much better than crummy old deer jerky.

      • Duane Scott

         Ha! Nicely played, Logan. He is a grandpa. 😉

  5. Melissa Brotherton

     Hahaha! That is hilarious! 🙂 Didn’t see that ending coming. 

  6. S Etole

    ahem, Duane … just ahem! with a bit of elder orneriness …

  7. Brenda Coats

    Baaahahahahaa!!! I love it! I could totally see myself doing that, even now (and I’m not even 40 yet, so no telling me I’m already elderly).

    Whaddya’ say we go out and ruin a few Hallmark moments together? Hehee. 

  8. Andrew Brewer

    Wow, that guy is my hero! Not because he might have traumatized that kid into disliking old people for eternity, but because of his playful, childlike demeanor. I can only hope I’m still up for playing pranks and doing things like that when I’m old, wrinkly, and gray-haired. Go gramps and thanks for the laugh!

  9. Anonymous

     whadaya mean old?  it was just two kids at the gumball machines.  only one laid his hands on some money.

  10. Keviana Elliot

    Holy moly. Didn’t see THAT coming! Love it!  

  11. Sandra Heska King

    A lesson here for all of us.

    Like we don’t ever have to grow up.

  12. Charity Singleton

    This is hysterical! Knowing you, I doubted there was a sentimental ending coming, but still. I never expected him to pop it in his mouth and walk off! how funny.


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the old man and the gumball

by Duane Scott time to read: 3 min