A recent unusually warm morning found me up and about at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. Standing on a corner on Manhattan's Upper West Side, I was approached by a dark-skinned fifty-ish man seeking assistance. "Excuse me...please," the rather harried man intoned, in one of those indistinct, hard-to-peg accents that simply say "I am a stranger in your land." He could have been Spanish, Greek, Middle Eastern or Martian. I assumed, as he produced a scrap of paper for my consideration, that I'd find an address written there. I imagined him a messenger struggling to make a delivery or some other such perplexed assignee.

A glance at the scrap of paper he held out for me, however, revealed no address. Instead, scrawled in a barely legible hand, was the word, "elderly."

"Excuse do you pronounce this?" the man asked.

A bit taken aback, I didn't answer right away.

"This word," he persisted. "How do you pronounce it, please?"

"Elderly," I finally responded.

"El...dur...lee?" he asked.

"Yes, elderly," I repeated.

"El-dur-lee, yes. Thank you! Thank you!" he gushed, obviously relieved of a great burden. He then scurried off, leaving me to ponder questions of my own.

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