The top of his face was clipped by the bulky lines that described the window’s frame. Perched atop my bicycle, waiting for the light to turn, I saw him pull up and look over. His chin and cheeks were mottled with white whiskers, trimmed and neat. He wore navy blue coveralls and at his neck a fresh red handkerchief peeked out.
His window rolled down and I missed what he had said as I was focused on the red, waiting for green.
“Pardon?” I wheeled closer to the car, an early eighties Volvo four-door that looked to be well cared for; loved even. I could see his soft, kind eyes now, and the muted smile covering teeth that may or may not be his own.
“Is that a racing bike?”
My humble scratched and dented flat-barred bike is a terrific commuter, as utilitarian as a nice pair of scissors. I live in a city where every weekend hundreds of bicyclists take their ultra-lightweight carbon-fiber and titanium racers to the streets, sheathed in lycra, boasting calves the size of small cooked turkeys. Their wheels cost more than my entire ride; I pedal a Toyota Camry among F1 cars
“No, it’s basically just a commuter. It’s fun, though,” I answered honestly, if remarkably dully.
As he smiled in response the light turned green and my spindly legs carried me through the intersection much more quickly than the old Volvo’s drivetrain could. As he passed me he waved.
What strikes me is that he rolled down his window and asked; he asked a simple, benign, pleasant question at a red light. In a world that can provide a person with so many reasons not to, this man’s experiences had led him to something else. His seventy-some years of life had left him with this lesson: reach out and smile.
He drove away gifting this lesson to me, the steel blue of his car blending with the sky.