New Old Friends

This morning as I waited for the bus to take me to work, I thought again about the never ending source of entertainment provided by my daily commute. I’ve relayed anecdotes before about my bus rides and I wondered when the next interesting scenario would present itself. I had only minutes to wait…

As I stepped onto the bus I noticed there were a few choice empty seats up front. These are a good find since sitting up front makes it easier to quickly exit the bus when we reach the end of our route. I sat in the first row of seats which happens to run along the side of the bus so that the person seated isn’t facing the front, but is facing an identical row of seats on the opposite side of the bus. That row of seats opposite me was empty except for one elderly man with a newspaper.

At the very next stop an elderly woman climbed onto the bus. As she saw the man opposite me she screamed in sheer delight, “Hello there!” and grabbed his hand and smiled as she sat down beside him. She was clearly excited to find him riding the bus this morning and she leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. Since my seat faced theirs, separated by only about three feet, I could clearly hear their animated conversation.

“How in the world have you been?” she asked as she twisted her body to try to face him. She now grasped both of his hands.

“Doing well!” he responded as he smiled back at her. He leaned over and gave her a hug. “It’s been so long since I last saw you!”

They seemed genuinely excited to see each other and to have a couple minutes to catch up.

“It’s been years since I’ve seen you!” she said as she patted him on the knee.

“You still live in the Chatham?” she asked.

“No, I never lived in the Chatham.” he said. “I live off of Four Mile Run.”

“Oh, yes.” she said still smiling.

He was smiling too as he asked, “Are you still working part time at the flower shop in Alexandria?”

“I never worked in a flower shop.” she said, staring at him a little more intently.

“Ok, I was thinking flower shop.” he said apologetically.

Trying to get the conversation back on solid ground she asked him, “How are the grandchildren?”

“Whose?” he asked in return.

“Yours.” she answered, looking puzzled.

“I don’t even have children.” he responded. They both smiled a little less now and had let go of each others hands.

“I thought your daughter’s children visited you when you lived in North Arlington?” she asked as she sat a bit more upright, inching back into place in her own seat.

He attempted to bring some understanding to the conversation. “I never lived in North Arlington, but your grandson stayed with you for a week one summer when we both lived in the neighborhood near Petworth, right? he asked. His eyes searched for some sort of acknowledgment.

“I never lived in that area.” she said, staring at him blankly.

“Are you Ruth?” he asked bluntly, appearing to realize he had just hugged a total stranger and then held her hands.

“My name is Edith.” she said.

“Are you Martin”? she asked, appearing to realize she had just kissed a stranger on the cheek and then patted his knee.

“My name is Larry.” he answered.

They stared at each other for a second, then both grinned sheepishly as they talked over themselves apologizing for the mistake.

As the bus approached the end of our route, Larry and Edith said no more but stared straight ahead as though their conversation had never happened. When the bus stopped for us to exit, they stood, gave each other a slight grin and a nod, then left in different directions.

What a shame, I thought. In five minutes time they had gone from what they thought were old friends, back to total strangers again, embarrassed by their own friendliness towards each other.

This evening after work as I approached the bus waiting to take me back home, I saw Larry sitting up front in the same seat he had occupied this morning. I passed by his seat on the way to an empty one a few rows down. Just as the bus doors were about to shut, Edith climbed up the steps. She fumbled with her purse as she walked down the aisle and didn’t look up until she heard her name.

“Hello Edith.” Larry said with a smile.

“Well Larry!” Edith grinned as she greeted him.

Larry patted the empty seat beside him and nodded for Edith to sit down. She sat down. Amid the din of conversations on the evening bus, always louder and more crowded than the morning bus, I heard him ask about her day, she asked about his, and I swear I heard some mention of dinner plans in there…

The bus approached my stop and as I stood up they were still smiling.

As I walked by them, Edith giggled and patted Larry on the knee.

Stuart M. Perkins

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62 Comments

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62 responses to “New Old Friends

  1. I enjoyed this…. it’s a good story to begin the week with!

  2. Your stories ar such fun. Just daily life, too. You are a good writer and observer.

  3. Gotta know… Did this actually happen? I laughed out loud…so sweet.

  4. veramark

    Wonderful and well-written story… public transport is the perfect place for picking up gems like this. Thanks for stopping by my inkblog, BTW, I’ll keep checking yours!

  5. That was beautiful; you made me smile as I see the possibility of a love story in the making with these two. I need to ride the bus more often!

  6. Good anecdote, nicely recalled!!

  7. Oh yes, a true story. I couldn’t catch all of the dialogue but heard most of it. There was a lot more patting of shoulders and arms and knees than I mentioned, but it was clear they were (at least initially) thrilled to see each other!

  8. laurie

    I agree with Lynne! One day I’ll have new old friends!

  9. Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  10. The dialogue made the entire story. I could not wait to finish reading once the “flower shop” part appeared.

  11. Fabulous story– I felt like I was there with you… and I read the whole thing aloud to my husband. Love your blog… love your writing!
    d

  12. Oh, what a wonderful story. i would love to know what happens to Larry and Edith!

  13. I hope I can see how things go with them too. I have seen Larry on the morning bus several times, but not sure I’ve ever seen Edith. If I luck out on an update, I’ll be sure to mention it!

  14. jodiwoody

    Too cute! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Superb Stuart! A most welcome smile and change after my attempts at dialogue whilst trying to work between WordPress server drop outs in UK – and one eye on news from WP Forum. So I hoped the email notification was good news on that front, but it turned out to be just as good – your warm humour. Many thanks

  16. kissysmom

    This story was so adorable! In a few years I can imagine that happening to me. Well done, stu.

  17. Thank you for that story! It really touched my heart 🙂

  18. Every day life is full of rich moments. Your observations turn these happenings into humorous and heartwarming stories.

  19. I love happy endings…I’m such a romantic!!! [sigh]

  20. This was so sweet and a joy to read. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. Is tha a honest to God true story? I’ve only been a follower a few days so I don’t know if your tellin true stories or made up ones. But either way that was a magnificant story. Told expertly and was one of the best stories I have ever heard. You couldn’t make that stuff up without being a Barrie or Poe. That is the sort of story you pass down to someone to give them lesson about humility and humanity. Well done. I’m genuinely over the moon with that story.

  22. Elizabeth R

    Love this story – there is nothing like a commute. Reminds me of once on the Boston subway a gentlemen strode up to another man and asked, “Excuse me, do you speak Latvian? Much to my surprise, since they both looked like regular old commuters to me, the second man replied, “Why, yes!”

  23. Oh yes, true story. That’s what I wanted this blog to be about. Telling the “real” stuff that happens in life that gets missed sometimes. So many mini-stories go on every day all around each of us. I had seen the elderly man a few times before (who I now know is Larry) but I don’t think I had seen Edith before.

  24. I love bus journeys. I’ve written many a post about them. It’s such a wonderful source of interesting events…

  25. This is fantastic! I was picturing the whole thing as I read it. It’s also nice to find someone who pays attention to their surroundings like I do. There is much to see for the person who has the eyes to look.

  26. truly enjoyed reading this – nice work stuart

  27. miningtheword

    Very heartwarming Stuart. I use to ride the subway from (29) Lee Highway and North Glebe to Ballston Commons everyday. Miss the myriad of lives observed. Keep up the great work.

  28. The best thing I read in a while|!! Great piece Stuart

  29. Philip Shiell

    Nice…

    I love it when people start talking and suddenly realise that they know the same people. This sometimes happens when you’re in a waiting room. You try to continue reading your book, ignoring them, but they get so loud that you can’t really help listening in.

    Keep your eyes open!

  30. great story. If only everyone were that friendly!

  31. Great story–and extremely well written. I can’t say that about every blog I’ve ever visited. *big smile*

  32. It is truly lovely when the ordinary becomes extraordinary . . .thanks for the lovely gift!

  33. Great ending! I once mistook a guy in a grocery store for my cousin’s husband. He was squatted down while scanning the bottom row and had a giant butt crack showing. That’s what made me think it was Carl. I couldn’t remember his name, so in a loud voice I dragged out, “Why helllooo”, hoping he wouldn’t notice his name was ommitted. It wasn’t Carl. He seemed really interested to know who I was until his wife returned and grabbed him by the arm. I made a hasty retreat.

  34. robertsonwrites

    That was an excellent story. It is not often that I can find a story that truly captures my interest from beginning to end. This was quite enjoyable.

  35. Life is beautiful……

  36. P.

    Nice story. Made me smile 🙂

  37. Clay J Mize

    Great story. We have all had that happen I think.

  38. You do an excellent job of story telling – I could picture this scenario perfectly!

  39. Lovely story. Its great that its a true story.

  40. don’t stop writing you have talent…Also thanks for the like of “Does god promise not to give us more than we can handle”

  41. Sig

    Wonderful – as always

  42. What an awesome story!! Can you imagine how awkward they must have felt there for a second lol See life sometimes has a happy ending too. I’m glad you saw them again that day so we could know that 🙂

  43. Pingback: New Old Friends | mtdecker

  44. deedeephotog

    What a delightful story.

  45. A really good people-watching outcome — and beautifully retold.

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