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Old Guy Walking

May 18, 2012

I have one goal when I walk my dog Kaya in daylight hours. To avoid Old Guy. Old Guy stops everyone he meets on the sidewalk to talk. You can be on the other side of the street, walking with a partner, engrossed in conversation, or striding along at a brisk pace clearly trying to get your heart rate up and Old Guy will stop you dead in your tracks.
He’s creative. He’s got methods. One is to point at something right behind you and start talking. He’ll claim it was a duck or a bird—usually he saw it that morning.
Another technique Old Guy uses is to catch your eye and then immediately start a story while doing a half turn away from you so you can’t signal that you’re not going to stop. You have to slow to listen to what he’s saying—plus the crafty half- turn indicates, (again!) that there’s something interesting to look at in the opposite direction.
Old Guy is alert. He’s seen the neighborhood fox, the geese in the park, the latest house-for-sale-sign, and he always knows tomorrow’s weather.
I sometimes watch him snare the uninitiated—like innocent young couples out for a twilight walk. They are too kind and sweet to cut him off so I see them reeled in with the crafty half–turn–point as I pass gratefully by, then, when I return a half hour later on my way back to the house, the couple is still there, smiles soldered in place and Old Guy is using a lot of arm action to tell his tale.
The thing is, I admire Old Guy. I admire him for walking twice a day. Without a dog. Just walking. I admire him for reaching out to people like me, and I think he is right. There usually is something worth noticing– not in the direction in which I’m headed– but on the path I could take instead. The momentary connection he seeks is not too much to ask of anyone.
Someday I’m going to notice Old Guy isn’t around anymore and it will break my heart.
Write about the one you avoid. Just ten minutes. Go.

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One Comment
  1. I know who your old guy is but I don’t think of him as “old guy” but as the old fellow with the dyed hair who seems a bit confused and lost. His conversations, his observations he’ll make and mumble regardless of whether someone is there listening to him or not. Sometimes I’ll listen and he’ll tell us about the beautiful bird he saw swooping down over the creek or the smell of the peonies blooming in a neighbor’s garden. Other times, we keep walking and I just imagine what he might be saying. Will I miss him when he no longer walks the streets of Murray Hill?
    There are many people that I miss and some in not a positive way. There was a really scary man with a cane I’d see on my way downtown that would start swearing at you if you looked at him the wrong way, and the tall lithe brown skin man who wore women’s clothes and made me feel embarassed but the old man with the dyed hair, sometimes he makes me think of things I might not notice.

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