The Lives of Others

I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of my office, about a two-mile stroll through a nice residential area. But don’t think that means it’s a dull trek — I’ve seen plenty of interesting sights on my walking commute, including a fancy cab, a weird plumber, a heart-shaped tree, a foreboding sign, and a race car.    

But one of my favorite sights is one of the most ordinary. At the intersection of Main and Medford Streets, there is a storefront for the Tufts Paper Co. Inc. (no connection to the university), which (sells? distributes? produces?) paper, bags, cups, plates and twine. Pretty uninteresting stuff on its own, right? But the reason I love this business, however, has nothing to do with their actual business.

When the weather is nice — and even sometimes when it’s not — they’ll have the loading area open. Adjacent to the loading area, there’s a tiny office that looks like it was constructed as an after thought by erecting a couple of wooden dividers. Every morning I walk past, without fail, there is an older gentleman sitting at a tidy wooden desk inside. Sometimes he is reading the newspaper. Sometimes he has his feet up. Other times he is simply sitting there, as if waiting for something to happen. On rare occasions, he is doing paperwork. He has no computer. Often, the office door is open, letting in the breeze from outside via the loading bay.

I’m not sure what it is, but there is something about that man: his tiny makeshift office, his feet up on the desk, his patient demeanor. Whenever I walk past and peer in, I feel calmer, more peaceful. Perhaps I envy his uncluttered desk or his open-air environs. Perhaps the notion of thinking about paper and twine all day is comforting to me — it’s something straightforward and predictable, something I could control. I think about waiting for trucks that will pick up or drop off their cargo, chatting with the drivers, checking the paperwork.

Of course, maybe he hates his job. Maybe the paper and twine business is not all my ignorance would lead me to believe. Maybe his company is not doing well. Maybe he wishes he was walking somewhere. Maybe he wishes he could check his e-mail.

I have no idea about any of this. All I know is that there is a strange man at the paper and twine company who makes me feel oddly content when I walk past. And that, really, is enough.

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One response to “The Lives of Others

  1. Pingback: Just a Touch « Safe Digression

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