Sunday, February 21, 2016

BUS STORY # 485 (Portrait # 32: A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day)

Downloaded from BillyPenn.

We’re waiting at the Uptown Transit Center. The Rapid is sitting in the station, but the driver is on break and waiting for the scheduled time of departure.

Standing by the front door is a tall man who commands attention. Shiny black leather porkpie hat fitted over a black do-rag that drops down the back of his neck. A square, jeweled earring on the right ear, and for what all the world appears to be a pinch of kleenex or toilet paper parked on a shaving nick just past the right corner of his mouth. It takes me a while to rule out some kind of piercing hardware.

He’s wearing a suit. Unusual enough, but this suit is one of a kind. It’s brown, with the look of linen. The fabric is shot through with darker brown threads.

The suit coat is unique. The collar is more jacket than suit, and even though there are no lapels to speak of, large black buttons run down the front double-breasted style. French cuffs with brass buttons for cufflinks.

Gray open-collar shirt with a heavy silver chain link necklace. Black dress shoes, plain-toed and well polished, A handsome and substantial walking stick.

He stands by the front door with the air of someone who’s not used to having to wait.

When we eventually board, he sits in the bench seat behind the driver, pulls a pair of sun glasses from an inside pocket, pulls a dark blue handkerchief from another inside pocket, and begins mouth-steaming and wiping the lenses. When he’s done, he puts the sun glasses on. Then he adjusts his do-rag in the front, and readjusts his hat.

Sitting across from him is a red-headed, red-mustached guy in a straw cowboy hat and a colorfully striped cowboy shirt. The cowboy says something about yesterday’s rain. The suit guy leans forward and weighs in on that rain. They talk about the weather a little more before moving into a substantial discussion about God and mankind’s relationship with God.

At first, the conversation is evenly divided, but gradually, the suit takes over more and more of the speaking time. His gestures become bolder, and I watch the cowboy shrug once or twice, then fan his hands, palm down, as if to say no argument here, brother.

But I can tell the cowboy is ready for his stop. That comes at San Mateo. He pulls the cord and stands up. The suit tells him how much he enjoyed talking with him, The cowboy extends his hand, and they shake vigorously, Then the cowboy goes to stand by the first exit door.

I get off at the next stop. I watch him as he sits silently, resting his hands on top of the walking stick.


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