I pulled into the parking lot at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Before even getting out of the car, I noticed the bike with the fendered 26-inch wheels, old-fashioned handlebars, overstuffed seat and more improvised saddlebags than I thought a bike could hold. It occupied a good portion of the sidewalk leading to the front door of the restaurant. It was a slightly odd sight in this neighborhood, one comprising almost entirely middle to upper class residents. And within three seconds of entering the establishment, I could identify the bike’s owner.
There in the northwest corner of the place, sat a wiry, 40-something caucasian male with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair and matching stubble. He wore stained khaki workpants, a greasy t-shirt, worn cross-trainers and a weak smile he flashed intermittently at the service staff as they moved between the kitchen and the dining area, shooting not so subtle glances at him. Upon seeing his smile, the thing that struck me was how straight and clean his teeth appeared to be.
It made me wonder where he’d come from – more demographically than geographically. Against the backdrop of a fairly upscale Sunday morning crowd mostly attired in church clothes, he struck me as someone who could rather easily be transformed into one of them, at least on the surface.
Was he a recent victim of the economic downturn, or was he a foreigner to this middle class world? Did he look at the rest of us, knowing what our lives were like? Did he flash that fleeting smile because he knew the restaurant service staff and patrons who seemed to look down on him were really only a few steps from his circumstance?
Being only ten years younger than him at the most, I thought about how slight a twist of fate it would take to find myself in his tattered shoes.
photo: Daquella manera
fear in the market;
world economies falter
all because of us?