I was walking through downtown San Jose, passing the Convention Center, when I saw a man wearing a business suit, long overcoat, and bright red Converse sneakers. The suit looked like it fit him well, a bit rumpled in places, and he wore a white dress shirt with the neck unbuttoned and no tie.
At the time I worked only a couple of blocks away, and I’d go for a 15-20 minute walk every day for my physical and mental health. I preferred working in places with more Nature nearby, but sometimes tech employees can’t be choosers. And they paid me well.
He was talking on a cell phone as I approached. My brain tried to understand what I was seeing and came up with one word: Timelord. (Yes, I watch that show.) And so I began searching for a blue British police box, while trying not to look like I was looking. I didn’t find one, but was sufficiently curious to step into the hotel cafe on the corner next to his patch of sidewalk. I found an empty seat at the bar and asked the server for a lime fizzy water while watching the oddly-dressed man. I would have preferred beer or rum, but I was still on the clock and needed to get more work done before the end of the day.
He finished his call, put the phone in a pocket, and came into the bar. He walked over to me, looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m not who you think I am.”
“Excuse me?” I was startled.
“Some fictitious time traveler who enjoys London a bit too much. I’m not him.”
My jaw was dropping on its way to my waist. Is he…
“…reading your mind?” He lowered his voice and leaned in closer. “You could call it that. I’m not from around here, but not in the way you think.”
“…am I doing here and who am I?” I could tell that being around someone who finished my sentences for me was going to become irritating soon. “Come by Saint Joe’s on First after you’re done for the day and we’ll talk.” Saint Joe’s was a new brewpub that wasn’t trying to be as trendy as other local watering holes. I liked their potato skins and they did a decent pale ale.
“I…I can be there around six,” I stammered.
“Good,” he replied, turning on the heel of one incongruous sneaker and disappearing out the door.
My mind wasn’t at all on my surroundings as I walked back to the office. What have I gotten myself into? I mused. Was I even going to go meet him? Yeah, I was curious. But I was also a bit scared. It’s one thing to read about people having magical adventures in the real world; it was quite something else to potentially be offered one. The easy thing to do would be to finish my work day, get into my car, and play bumper cars with everyone else on the long parking lot home.
Just like every other day, I thought, glumly. Get up. Shower. Eat roughly the same breakfast. Fight traffic to get to the office. Spend my day buried in spreadsheets full of other people’s problems. Have lunch with my office mates, never talking about anything too close to who we really were, because hey, we had to work together. More hours of staring at the screen, then an hour of staring at the freeway while driving home. Eat, read a book or watch a show, fall into bed too tired to do anything else. Rinse and repeat. Go out for a drink once in a while. Do something with friends once in a while. And the prospect, while comforting in its safety and predictability, didn’t bring me any joy.
Someone once said that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living. Well, thinking about it I’m not sure that mine was all that worth examining. You could put a movie of my life next to the phrase “in a rut” in the dictionary. So what if the mystery man kidnapped me away to slave in a spice mine somewhere. It would at least be different. I smiled inwardly.
Did I finish up the day’s work with a bit more energy, even though I was distracted? Maybe. But also, in between tasks, I found out that the beach scene I had for computer wallpaper was somewhere in Barbados and that I certainly had the money to visit there for four or five days if I wanted to. And if I didn’t get sucked away into the 35th Century or whatever, I began to realize that I wanted to visit that beach. And others.
Six PM approached. With a mix of excitement and fear I shut down the computer and walked over to Saint Joe’s. I stepped in right at six, looked around, didn’t see the sneakered man.
I found a place at the bar and ordered an IPA.
An hour later I was still looking, but he still wasn’t there. At least now there won’t be traffic getting home, I thought, and ordered some potato skins.
When the skins arrived, the woman next to me asked, “How are those?”
“Way better than sitting in traffic,” I replied, “but that’s damning with faint praise.” She smiled. She had a nice smile, and as we talked it turned out we had interests and a couple of friends in common.
Not the adventure I was expecting, but perhaps the one I was supposed to take.
Loren Davidson has been many things, from real estate salesperson to technical writer and songwriter/performer. Loren now enjoys writing from retirement in Boquete, Panama.
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