I’m one of those people who is (un-?)fortunate enough to live close to their office. My daily commute is only about 2.5 miles and six stoplights each way, along just one overly-congested street. Over the past two years of living there, I have observed several “regulars” along my route. Not cars or drivers, but others who are outside, in hot & cold, rain or shine, day & night. These folks are members of an urban sub-culture who, rather than cluttering up the already crowded streets with yet another one-passenger vehicle, take advantage of alternative transportation methods.
First, there are the bus riders. One is a Muslim woman whom I often see craning her head out, straining to look down the street for the coming bus. Flagging down the driver to make sure she doesn’t get missed. Another is a fellow whom I can only guess works in the medical profession, clad most often in his blue scrubs with small, collapsible cooler [which likely held last night’s dinner] and small bag of other personal effects. Weary-eyed and often sporting a “I grabbed a little sleep where I could” look, he if one of several I’ve seen boarding and departing the bench located at one of the three major intersections along my route.
Next, there are the runners. These folks are everywhere. Some push strollers, are being walked by their dogs, some walk or jog solo, while others jog with a friend [oddly, with iPod earbuds firmly plugged into their ears, as if to avert having to talk to them]. Many of these athletes and “would-be exercisers” are seen along the trail surrounding an amazing urban park and campus, home to a 3.5 mile city trail, TWO 18-hole golf courses (one is a “Par 3” course), driving range, public swimming pool, playground, baseball fields, and what seems like about half-a-bazillion ducks.
Finally, there are the bike riders. Over the past two years I’ve seen many, but there are two I know to be regulars on my route that really stick out in my mind. [I’m not going to mention either of the two “celebrity” bike riders known by EVERYONE in my town for being…well…eccentric. They deserve an article all of their own.] There’s the tall, skinny, dark-skinned fellow with long, flowing black hair glasses. I can’t tell if he’s Mexican or Native American… He’s usually sporting some dark sunglasses and a work shirt with his name on it, though I’ve never been close enough to read it.
Then, there’s the guy who works at the 24-hour restaurant. For as long as I’ve been making this commute, I’ve seen him most often. A fairly unassuming guy, he’s always considerate in traffic. Quietly peddling his way (often in his work uniform) to and from his apartment and work (which I estimate is about a 5 or so mile one-way trip). I’ve seen him in the cold, rain, and scorching heat….even at night, with his safety headlight and flashing red tail light illuminating his presence. He never looks rushed, hurried, flustered, annoyed, or put out. The bike is simply HIS chosen method of transportation.
Sunday afternoon, before catching my flight out of town for a short business trip, I stopped at the sandwich shop for a quick bite of lunch. While the “sandwich artist” was diligently building my sub, in walked Craig. I introduced myself, we had a brief exchange, and went about our respective day. As I left, he turned to me and said, “Hey. Next time to drive past, honk your horn and wave. I’ll remember you!”
I don’t know his story…or the stories of many others I see on my route between work, the gym, and the office, but I’m sure glad I took the chance to say hello to this former “man of mystery.”