For the last few years, on my bike commute I often see the same people in roughly the same place, traveling the opposite direction of me. Other bike commuters, several of whom I exchange nods or “hellos”, some runners and people who walk alone, with other people or with their dogs.
There’s a tall, older lady who walks a collie and we’ve been greeting each other over the last couple of years without ever stopping to talk or exchange names. I think the lady is probably around 80. Her dog is almost certainly older than that in “dog years”. Since I stopped biking in December after it snowed and didn’t start up again until the second week in March, I figured a lot could have happened. I wondered if I’d see them again. Mostly, since the dog was really slowing down last year, I wondered if she’d still walk if the dog was gone. It didn’t take more than a week of biking for us to cross paths and I was happy to see them. I’ve really been thinking for a while that I should stop and that we should exchange names. This actually happened last night. Earlier in my commute home, I had been kind of annoyed because a herd of runners had stretched themselves all the way across both lanes of the BIKE path and were a bit slow to respond to “on your left”. In addition to “on your left”, I had some other choice words for them. Words that aren’t exactly appropriate in polite company. But then I saw the lady and the collie. More often we see each other in the morning, but evening isn’t unprecedented. She was walking the opposite direction on the sidewalk on the same side of the street where I was riding. I pulled over and we chatted for a bit. She asked me about how far I ride and I told her where my four miles begins and ends. She mentioned that her dog is getting old and has arthritis, so they don’t go as far or as fast. She also told me that she parked in Lot 60 back when she worked at the Nursing School at UW. She said she drove an old Cadillac convertible. She said that probably no one could afford to fill such a car with gas anymore. I remember cars like that from 4th of July parades when I was a kid. I think even by the 1970’s cars like that were pretty much the affair of collectors. I mentioned that it must have been a really beautiful car though. We exchanged first names and shook hands. I took off my glove and held my hand out to her dog.
We went our separate ways, with at least me in a much better mood than before I saw her.