Thursday, February 19, 2009

More on Strangers: Pondering

I leave for work at the same time each morning, and take the same route to work, every day. I have come to recognize other people leaving their homes, or on their way to daily destinations. I have a tendency, each morning, to check up on "my" people. I have 3 bus stop people—that is, bus stops I drive by—each of whom I wonder about each morning, or miss when they don't show up. I've seen them so many times that I've recognized them in other settings: book stores, restaurants.

I have oddly come to create imaginary personalities for my bus stop people, based on my daily observations.

The first young man, I've decided, is taking the bus to our local community college. He's smart, but geeky, with a few obsessive compulsive disorders. He is never in jeans, but in dress pants with the legs cut too high, revealing socks and large black shoes. He isn't "hip" like most of today's youth, but he is meticulous and methodical and always ready. He has an umbrella on rainy days, and wears a windbreaker on windy days; the hood up and tied tight around his face. This morning, I noticed that his footprints in the snow stopped where he stood. I then noticed just the one set, back down the road and up a driveway to the home he must live in. Ew. Now I'm a stalker.

Another woman stands at a bus stop near assisted-living housing established for adults that have physical and mental disabilities. She stands on the corner each morning, sometimes with a cane, sometimes with a walker. She has come to recognize me and waves enthusiastically when I drive by. This has been going on for years. I thought at first that it was a case of mistaken identity; if she were to get a closer look, she'd realize she didn't know me. But she once approached me warmly in a restaurant on the avenue, and asked "Where are you working, now?" We made polite chitchat, and I shyly did not ask her name. It probably is a case of mistaken identity, but she spoke to me with such familiarity that I'll never be sure if it's not my own mistake. Might I have forgotten her?

And the final young woman, I've been observing for only a few months now. A gorgeous young black girl, I noticed her hair first, the most beautiful red extensions in her hair, against a white down coat. I saw her, the first few mornings, waiting for the bus, and just couldn't take my eyes off of her hair. Another morning then, me running early, I noted her departing an early bus, with a baby carrier in her arms. There have been mornings since that I've noted her tromping with that baby, over snowdrifts on uncleared sidewalks, and other days where I see her walking back to the bus stop, after dropping off her baby.

I wonder about her every day. How she is neatly dressed and pulled together every morning. How early she must have to get up, to get herself ready, and her baby ready, and pack diapers and formula, and how long she must have to stand in the cold, and how far she has to ride the bus, and where she goes, on her next stop.

While coming home from Menard's last night, I spotted her again, waiting for a bus. It was almost 7 pm. She was standing, in the dark, in awful freezing rain. I had to remind myself that I don't know her; that I could not offer her a ride; she'd think me crazy! I left wondering more: Might she just be getting off work? Will she grab the next bus clear back to the other side of town, pick her baby up, and grab yet another bus home?

So I watch people.

I ponder, and I wonder. I wonder how far off I am with my made-up stories of their lives. That one, he is smart and lovable, in his own geeky way. I'm sure he'd make me laugh. And this one, a total sweetheart. She loves you, no matter what. And that one: She's going places. I hope the world cuts her a break, but if it doesn't, she's going to be ok, and she will someday tell her daughter about once upon a time, when she mucked through 2 feet of snow from the bus-stop, and that little girl will never be able to imagine it.

Ah, who knows. My gut instinct about people, if I listen to it, is usually spot-on.

I guess I'll never know.

But it's not so bad, for them, that a stranger wishes them well, yeah?

13 comments:

  1. Jeremy Jay2:23 AM

    Amazing....

    J.

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  2. I do the same thing. I often wonder about people I see every day. Lately I have been doing that with the people I see at the Gym every day. Sometimes it is funny to find out the truth after I have already graded them.

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  3. I love people watching.

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  4. I love this post :)

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  5. I was one of those people who was often watched when I lived in Boston. I didn't smoke inside so I would be out on the stoop, smoking, reading, working, whatever. People started stopping and saying "hi, I see you every day and I just wanted to say hi." It was always a neat thing and I never felt stalked, just accepted as part of the neighborhood.

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  6. For reasons not known, my eyes welled up at the end of this post.

    Beautiful heart there Lori..

    I am usually 30 mins on or off my time to office ( office asks 8 hrs of work mandatory, no timing restrictions) and mostly don't get to see the same faces.I still have a couple of 'wave back' friends though.

    You inspire me to include all those souls in my prayers and wish them well, no matter who they are.

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  7. Marmar10:15 PM

    Love this! I do it as well. Its nice to step out of your own world for a while now and again....

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  8. Ana and I do this with the people we pass on our Tu/Thu walks at the park. Most people walk counterclockwise but there's no rule saying you must do so, so Ana and I walk clockwise and say good morning to everybody.

    My work/church/school routine occurs all within a 1.5 miles of my house, so I usually DO know the people I see on my way to work!

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  9. outstanding post! I can relate, is that scary or good?

    ~AM

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  10. Anonymous8:52 PM

    I guess astrological signs of the customers where I work.
    Z

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  11. I used to do this when I walked to work in England. I would see the same people every day at the same point in the walk, and wonder what their lives were like. I used to know if I was late or early depending on when I passed them (or if they were late or early, too). If I missed them, I wondered if they were sick, if they weren't there for a week, I knew they were on holiday. It's like a secret world.

    Interestingly, I was always late on a Friday, but passed them all in the same place as an ordinary day: turns out everyone is always late on a Friday.

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  12. I will imagine that someday you will give that young woman a ride...you two would have a GREAT conversation.

    We've given stranger people rides in our lifetime!

    I love to see where your imagination takes you...you are so thoughtful! And have the cutest imaginings!

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