The detour was unwelcome. Granted, my commutes in the country are by and large uneventful compared to my drive time in Philadelphia, and I try to keep that in mind, but I get annoyed with delays and interruptions in my schedule. It wasn’t an unpleasant detour, on roads I rarely drive, through pastoral and bucolic scenery, but I’m later than I’d care to be.
I reconnect with my route, getting behind someone who is in no apparent hurry. I sigh, and turn up the radio. Music makes me forget I’m driving. I do love to drive mind you, but this is my morning commute. I have a day to start. Lately the amount and shifting locations of roadwork in the area have been frustrating. I try not to complain about it much, recalling how cracked and broken the roads were this past spring, and thinking forward to how much nicer they will be for this coming winter.
I make it to the outskirts of the town I work in, wait for traffic, and sneer derisively as a large pickup truck sporting a confederate flag plate on its grill pulls up behind me. I slow passing a business that has grown to the point where it has adversely affected traffic patterns, unwisely so. Now a grouping of small annoyances swirl around my mind, none so bothersome as all taken in during such a short period.
Traffic on Chestnut is usually busy this time of morning, and it was so as I approached Main Street. I sat waiting behind another car at the light while the driver seemed more content to have a shouted yet good-natured conversation with a man on the corner. I sigh, and turn the music up more. Finally on Main I came to an extended stop and saw The Man.
The Man needs a name. Walking Stick Man, because he has a tall walking stick. I guess that is as good as any. I don’t know that he’s homeless, but he looks like he could be. I first noticed him 5 years ago when I moved home, and our winters of late have been harsh, yet he’s still here. Perhaps he’s in someone’s care, I have no idea.
He always seems to be in a good mood. I’ve said hello to him before, and while his responses have been at best indecipherable, they have seemed to have been in good humor at least. That’s the thing; he’s not all there, as they say. He talks to himself as he wanders around town. I’ve seen him in many places, but usually close to the main strip. He’s usually smiling and chatting away, albeit to no one at all. I wonder that he has a care in the world.
And here on Main Street, at 9AM on a week day, he appears to be dancing down the side walk. I’ve had what best can be describe as a ‘stupid commute’. I’m nearing my office, where I’ll sit inside the whole day, muttering and swearing at a computer, dealing with structures that have become so large that my mind can barely contain them anymore. Bills, health concerns (currently a swollen finger which has cut my typing speed in half), keeping a roof over my families head, and finding some small time for my art and time with family and friends. My world is one that is frenetic and split, where I build and drive in all directions at once it seems…
I wish I could sing and dance down Main Street at 9AM on weekday.
I woke up the following morning, my swollen finger now quite painful. I started to work from home as I placed a call to my doctor and waited for her to get back to me. I was dour still. Deadlines, dreaded finger pain on the keyboard, late to work, computer is slow, and oh look! Bills! I set my files to download, which is double slow given my internet connection. I took my coffee and the phone to the deck to await the completion of the file transfer and a call from my doctor. My 2 year old daughter Henrietta followed me outside, where the following exchange took place:
Henrietta: Whatcha doin’ dad?
Me: Waiting for a call from the doctor.
Henrietta: You have to go doctor?
Me: Yeah. My finger hurts.
Henrietta: I have to go doctor myself.
Me: You do? Why?
Henrietta: ‘CAUSE Ashley went farm, by the cow and it went moo!
Me: Oh no?
Henrietta: Hi Dad!
Me: Hi Etta!
And away she went, leaving me smiling. I worked until the doctor called and told me to soak my finger in hot water and Epsom Salts (who keeps Epsom Salts handy??) which I would not manage to do for the entire day as I need dry fingers on the keyboard.
I packed up, dressed, and started to leave the house as Etta came running into the kitchen, smiling and yelling “Daddy! I love you!”
Funny how that little girl can stop a bad mood in its tracks. I crouched down to catch her as she ran into my arms. I gave her a kiss on the head, sent her back to the babysitter, and I went to start another day.
Walking Stick Man wasn’t on my route today, but next time I see him on Main Street, singing and dancing, I’m going to pull my car over and join him.