I parked next to the village post-office. As I got out of the car a ragged old man passed by me and started talking … in Romanian … I though he was talking to himself. We passed each other and I was on my way to the post office when I realized he was talking to me. He moved very slowly, so it took him time to turn around and face me.
With my basic Romanian I was trying to understand what he was saying. He assumed I spoke Romanian so he wasn’t being considerate and speaking slowly or clearly for me. When I looked confused he took out his ragged wallet and from it a small piece of folded paper. He unfolded the paper which had a phone number on it. With that clue I was able to piece together that he was asking for a phone to call his wife so that she could come and pick him up. I asked him, would you like to use my telephone … holding my telephone out to him to compensate for my Romanian. He said yes.
I dialed the phone number on the paper for him and gave it to him. He immediately started talking … assuming the connection had already been made. I told him to wait a second. I am guessing he then heard the phone ringing and waited. During that short interval I had a chance to look at him more closely. His eyes were partly closed. He was wearing ragged clothes. The zipper on his pants looked broken … his pants were tied on and one of his sweaters was sticking out where there should have been a zipper. His hand was shaking nervously (some kind of illness I am guessing). A woman’s voice answered and he asked to come and get him. He then switched to speaking Hungarian and spoke for another half a minute. Then he handed me the phone back.
I wished him a good day and started to resume my journey to the post office. He asked me to wait. He fumbled with his wallet again and his fingers opened the slot that holds bills. There was only one bill of only one lei. He pulled it out and handed it to me. I replied: no thank you, I was glad to help have a nice day. He insisted. I insisted too. He held his arms out and embraced me softly, thanking me and wishing me health.