by Vic Zarley
I tried to remain solemn. That was my mood as I started off on a Saturday afternoon walk and I had no desire to change it. I sauntered toward the community college campus, a thin cloud cover and freezing temperatures reflecting my mental attitude. I was deep in thought about little aches and pains, little irritants that were sand-papering the edges of my life.
Two laughing children ran past me. That was rude of them, I thought — they had no business interrupting my solemnity. I slowed so they could hurry past. I walked on, halfway through the campus, reflecting on my life.
I came to a major thoroughfare with a pedestrian overpass just ahead. I decided it would be interesting to climb that pedestrian overpass and watch the traffic. From above I would watch the cars go under me, each one a shell holding a driver and maybe passengers, living their separate lives, going to their separate places. I thought I would get even more contemplative and withdrawn, which was attractive to me at that moment.
I climbed the walkway, spiraling up higher and higher, then walked out over the street. Traffic roared under me. I was sure the people in those cars and trucks were completely unconcerned with my observation of them. What would they care if some clown was up on the pedestrian overpass watching them? What difference would it make to them?
Watching the traffic flow under me, I stared indifferently into the private worlds of the people’s vehicles. Completely unexpectedly, one person waved to me. It caught me off guard and I took a quick breath. What was happening? Then, in another car, two more people waved at me. Suddenly most of the people in the cars into which I was staring began waving and smiling.
I was shocked. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t part of my plan. I had determined that I was going to have a solemn, isolated moment on this cold afternoon. But — as if by magic — I was catapulted into a different state of mind. My sense of solemnity flew away. Any sense of separation I had felt dropped from the overpass and dissipated onto the street below.
I could sense a meltdown. Something welled up within me, making me feel joyous. I waved at those who waved at me. Other people in cars and trucks going under the overpass responded. I had been singled out and zapped by a wave of love from random drivers and passengers on the street below.
There was nothing I could do to stop the change they began. I was defeated in my attempt to remain solemn. My struggle was lost. I smiled and laughed and waved at the parade of humanity beneath me — who probably never knew they touched me that day.