For six years Charley rode the same bus. It traveled the same route for 45 minutes where he got off at the same stop and walked two blocks home. Nearly the same people occupied the bus every day.
A curious little old man; with a cane, a three-piece suit, and a smile climbed onto the bus at the same stop. Charley and he got off at the same stop. They never spoke.
The old man had a routine; every Monday. Wednesday, and Friday one week and only Tuesday and Thursday the next. It never varied.
“How could he smile?” Charley thought.
After six years the old man sat next to Charley and smiled. “Milton Harper,” he said.
“Charles Marshall, but they call me Charley.”
“Pleased to meet you, Charley,” Milton said.
“Likewise, Milton,” Charley said.
“I know you have a question,” Milton said. “I can tell by the way you look at me and you look away and wonder.”
Charley smiled. “You have remarkable powers of perception. Excuse me, but I mean no offense. You are considerably older than me. You have been riding this bus route probably longer than I’ve been alive. How do you do it? I’ve considered buying another car for myself just to take my own route to and from downtown.”
“You no doubt note I alternate days on alternate weeks,” Milton said.
“Yes,” Charley said. “I know when you’re scheduled to ride this bus.”
“You too are a keen observer,” Milton said.
“What else is there to do?” Charley said chuckled.
“On the day you don’t see me on the bus I ride another bus that takes me to within three blocks of this stop,” Milton said. “It’s a little further to walk, but a pleasant walk. There are a few shops and cafes on the way. I sometimes stop for a coffee or a snack to tie me over until supper. There is also a fine bookstore on the way. And there is something of particular interest to you.”
“What could that be?” Charley said.
“A flower shop,” Milton said. “You have a wedding band. Wives like flowers. You know how they like those little knick-knacks and frilly things. There are a few of those places too.”
“Do you mind if I walk with you tomorrow?” Charley said.
“Certainly,” Milton said. “That would be fun. I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
“Why don’t you go that way every day?” Charley said. “It sounds like you could never get bored by walking that way.”
“Some days I just want to get home early,” Milton said. “But lately I’ve been watching you. You just seem to stare into space. That’s why I sat next to you today. I wanted to know what was bothering you.”
“You’re never bored are you, Milton?” Charley said.
“There are so many people to worry about,” Milton said. “How could I possibly be bored?”