I walked out of the post office just as a car pulled over in front.
A young man, who looked too tall for his tiny blue ride, wiggled out.
"Excuse me, sir," he said.
Whenever anyone calls me sir I assume they want to sell me cologne from a backpack. I kept walking.
"Sir," he tried again. "Do you know how to tie a tie?"
That struck me as an odd. I just looked at him.
"I pulled over, saying to myself, 'That man looks like he knows how to tie a tie.'"
He was right. I do know how to tie a tie.
But how did he know that? I wasn't wearing a tie that morning, but something about me suggested that I could help.
"Sure," I said.
So he stood in front of me, and I tried to explain how to loop the thicker, longer end of the tie around the skinnier part.
He tried a couple of times. He just couldn't do it. It was like teaching my dad how to send a text message (but man can he tie a tie).
I explained to the increasingly nervous young man that it's much easier to do this in front of a mirror, though the only one available was the rear-view in his car. After a couple more misses, he asked me to do it for him.
I took the tie, noticing it was a nice gray one made by Calvin Klein, and tied it. But I misjudged the kid's height, and the skinny side hung out from the longer side. Not good.
Passersby must of found this scene odd: A man trying to tie another man's tie in front of a busy post office.
Or maybe they thought I was the kid's father. But I'm 41, and it seems unlikely that I'd have a son in his 20s, though it is technically possible. Far less possible, especially technically, is that I'd have a kid as tall as a point guard.
I did it one more time. I got it right. The young man looked sharp.
He thanked me over and over.
"You have a job interview?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said.
I thought back to my own struggles as a young man trying to dress properly for an interview, hoping that if I looked just right some crusty old editor would give me a chance to cover the nation's longest city council meetings. Those ties, which were in that era's ugly paisley and floral prints, seemed to help me find employment, with editors crusty and not, more than a few times.
The kid hurried off, miraculously slipping into his clown car without hitting his head.
He drove toward the freeway, maybe toward his future.
I hope he got the job.
JOHN CANALIS is the editor for the Daily Pilot, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and firstname.lastname@example.org.