February 24, 2012

The Strangers We Meet

Throughout our walks — whether for work or pleasure — we run into a lot of different people. By different I don’t just mean a variety. Sure, there are the postal carriers and the UPS drivers (and Fed-Ex and a variety of others); there’s the cab driver who must have a drop off every day around noon and the fire fighters at the corner fire station washing their truck or zooming out of the firehouse. There’s the clerk who walks to her shift at the grocery store and neighbors who are out on their own walks with their own dogs. Yes, these are all very interesting people I get to see just about every day, but they aren’t the interesting ones I’m talking about.

For instance I’m talking about the Frisbee Man. I call him this because on really windy days (and sometimes on days not so windy) he is down at the big field with his grocery cart and his three layers of coats testing the direction of the wind with his moistened finger. He stands at one end of the field and flings one Frisbee after the other as far as he can across the wide expanse (the same wide expanse I like to run over!). The more he flings, the more he disrobes until eventually he’s down to an old ragged t-shirt and some very saggy jeans.

And yes, if you’ve figured out the math he has at least 30 Frisbees (all different colors) in his grocery cart along with more clothes, some interesting “gadgets” (for lack of a better term), and some grocery bags of “stuff” that could just as well be food as it could be stuffed animals. Hard to tell because I never get too close to the Frisbee Man.

Not that I’m rude to him, but Gretchen knows that if I show an interest it won’t be in the man — it will be in his Frisbees and particularly, in chasing them. “Sorry buddy,” she says to me, “He doesn’t need any tooth marks in his beautiful Frisbees.”

But some days we stop and watch him because this guy is pretty darn amazing. On a good day, he can throw a Frisbee a good 200 yards — way across the field — and often we see him not only throw them one after the other after the other, but one right on top of the other…as in landing within a few inches of the ones he threw before it.

I always thought that, to get a good throw in, you’d want the wind to be at your back, but Frisbee Man has taught me otherwise. He throws into the wind and his angle is so amazing, that Frisbee flies a short distance and then launches up and travels farther than I’ve ever expected to.

And he throws the Frisbees for hours. Some days we might pass him three or four times, which can mean that he’s been throwing for about 3 hours.


And Frisbee Man is a very nice fellow. He says hello to us every time we pass and every time we pass we comment on the wind or the last throw or his remarkable aim or the weather and he cordially replies always ending his comments with, “Have a glorious day!”

There’s the Shy Guy (as I like to call him) who lives, we think, in the park somewhere. He didn’t say hello to us at first, just tucked his baseball-capped head into his coat collar, stuffed his hands in his pockets and moved down the path. But one day Gretchen was taking a photograph of us (not sure who was all there) and the Shy Guy lifted his chin from his coat, stopped about 50 feet from us, and smiled.

From that moment on, he waves at us now and his smile is as beautiful as the sun on a winter’s day. I don’t think he speaks English, but maybe one day I can teach him some canine.

There’s the Nervous Lady too. She hangs out at various street corners waiting for some nefarious activity, but she always comments when we pass by. “That’s some beautiful dogs you got there,” she said just the other day while Monty and Roux and I were walking by. “Yes, ma’am, some super-duper beauts!”

It kind of makes me laugh because she’s seen us hundreds of times and every time she says the same things. I don’t mind. I really like the way she says “beauts!”

There’s also the Tall Man who for months never gave us the time of day, but one day, instead of just saying “hello” Gretchen said, “Hope you’re staying warm, it’s cold out today!”

It was as if the flood gates of conversation opened for him. He started talking and I just stood there looking up at him (he’s about 6 feet 5 inches tall) and listening as he prattled on about topics I couldn’t really understand. Now every time we see him, he waves his long-fingered hand and lets us know the current weather report, the state of political affairs, and who we might meet up ahead on the path.

I also really like the Walking Lady. We put in a lot of miles – some days more than others — but the Walking Lady has us beat hands down (or maybe that’s feet down!). She’s up on the hill or over by the park or down by the lake and then an hour later we’ll see her on the other hill, at the other park, or coming back from the lake. She’ll greet us on the long flight of stairs up the to ridge or in the tunnel on the way to the lake or sometimes we’ll see her marching her way through a neighborhood miles away from where we normally see her. She’s truly an inspiration!

I really like my job as a dog dog walker, not just because I get to hang out with some swell dogs, but also because I get to meet (and greet) some really interesting folks who’ve given me a whole new perspective on humanity. Walking for work gives me a chance to check in on the neighborhood, the regulars (the UPS guy, the mail carriers, etc.), and the interesting characters who most people don’t take the time to stop and meet.

Next time you see one of them, say hello from me, okay?



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