Sunday, June 26, 2005

Street Bob

The other day, as I drove toward the freeway onramp at Riverside and Tujunga, I saw a man waiting for a bus. He moved from one foot to the other, and I thought at first he was dancing. But there was no music in his shifting.

The movement was too grand to be called a fidget or a tic, but that's probably what it was. A tic. Something he couldn't help doing.

He wore khaki from top to bottom. A hiking hat--one of those with a crumpled brim all around and mesh above the headband, a strip of leather thong strung through the grommets--and a tan shirt, tan pants, and tan canvas shoes. Trying to fade into the background, which he might have done if not for the constant movement. Maybe only trying to reassure people by his nondescript, unthreatening clothing, that he is just like us, plus one unnerving little compulsion.

It must cut him off from most social interaction. I wouldn't know how to look at him if he spoke to me. I wouldn't know how or whether to ask what happened, if anything happened.

"Do you know that you are, even now, bobbing back and forth on the street?" I might inquire, but who knows if it's ruder to acknowledge or to ignore?

I step on the gas when the light changes and leave the man alone. Me, with my enviably reliable motor functions. Me, with my smartly snapping synapses, spinning down the road home. Me, thinking on the fragility of normal.