Tag Archives: observation

Watch For It

He stopped at the curb to press the crosswalk button, casually swinging his briefcase as he checked both ways for traffic. Any second now he’d set the briefcase down to tie a shoe or adjust his jacket. Wait… wait… and there it was. Today he tied a shoe. The light turned green and I drove through the intersection glancing at him one last time as he stood to pick up his briefcase. He nodded slightly as I passed. I raised one hand from the steering wheel.

I leave for work very early in the morning. Almost every weekday for a of couple years now I’ve seen this same lone man at the same empty intersection at the same early time of day. We each wake up to carry out our daily routines unconcerned, and mostly unaware, that the other exists except for that thirty seconds or so each morning at the intersection. He generally approaches the corner about the time I come to a stop at the light.

That early in the morning he’s the only pedestrian and I’m the only car. I forgot who began to wave first, but after months of early morning crossings it just seemed silly not to. He’d become as much a part of the landscape for me as the row of trees by the school, the yellow house with the picket fence, or the bridge over the creek. Their constant presence is an odd reassurance that all is right and routine. On rare days when he wasn’t at the intersection, I wondered where the man might be. He’d reappear the next day and all would be normal again. I laugh at myself for noticing such things but I suppose others do too. It’s not just me?

And it isn’t only the man with the briefcase. A rusty white van pulls out in front of me at the next corner. Further along, two black labs do their early morning romping behind a fence. A man in a red hat hoses off the sidewalk in front of an office building. Over time I began to notice these things and soon actually watched for them.

Each evening going home I walk past a woman smoking a cigarette under a tree out back. The security guard at the parking garage sings loudly to himself. Back in the car and I pass the same food truck along the same stretch of road every day. Closer to home and those two black labs are either lying in the shade or barking at squirrels. Those routine sights in my personal landscape satisfy something, I’m just not sure what. It’s not just me?

A while back, returning to work after a few days of vacation followed by a long weekend, I eagerly checked off my daily landscape markers. The briefcase, the dogs, the sidewalk washer, all there as usual even though I’d been gone a while. That evening on the way home I saw the woman light her cigarette and head towards the tree out back. I laughed again at myself for even noticing, but she was, after all, a part of my daily landscape.

As I neared the tree on my way to the parking garage I wondered if the security guard would still be singing after all of my days away from work. That’s when I heard the woman’s voice.

“Hey.” she said as took a puff of her cigarette. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

It’s not just me.

Stuart M. Perkins

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Honestly Put.

I catch an early morning bus to work from Arlington VA into D.C. each weekday. Generally, I see the same faces riding every morning, each of us zombies of the morning rituals and habits that funnel us to the same vehicle, at the same time, day after day. We read papers, chit-chat with other riders, take quick naps, or pretend to take quick naps so as not to have to chit-chat with other riders.  Primarily the same people, same seats, every day.

One morning, however, in the seat usually occupied by a woman who finds it necessary to read her weekly novel out loud, sat a newcomer. He sat in an aisle seat, the window seat filled with his backpack, a jacket, and what appeared to be one shoe. He leaned forward as much as he could without hitting the seat ahead of him, head in his hands. He would occasionally sit up to look out of the window, glance at the other riders, or stare straight ahead. He talked to himself a little bit, but I could never understand much more than a word or two now and then. He did not appear to be having a good day so far, at that early hour. At most I could hear an occasional sigh, a “Good Lord”, or a curse word now and then.

But towards the end of our commute as we neared the final stop, the man sat bolt upright and loudly and clearly said “Lord, give me Patience today, because if you give me Strength I’m just going to rob that liquor store on the corner of 14th and P.

Now that was an honest, praying man.

Stuart M. Perkins

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