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Waiting for the Number 8

Waiting for the Number 8

I couldn’t resist eye contract – his were the most captivating brown eyes I’d ever seen; dark caramel with flecks of amber. He saw me watching him, winked and flashed a charming smile that melted the cold fog around us and asked if I could spare a cigarette.

I complied and he began to chat, educating me on his life; he grew up in the Northeastern US and graduated from Brown University.  Was he lying? Maybe, but from his speech and mannerisms, there was little doubt the man was intelligent and very well educated.  He’d been here 18 years that month, just working odd jobs; grocery clerk, record store clerk, coffee barista… none lasted too long.  Was it simply bad timing all these years or did he have a deficiency that kept him from holding down a “real” job?  Probably a little of both.

I was in that neighborhood for a job interview, the return bus was late, he was well-mannered, so I held up my end of the conversation and nodded toward the bags around his feet filled with fruit, yogurt, bread, etc… and asked where the nearest grocer was.  He told me his bags were from the food bank, wrote down the address for me.  He added that he knew the difficulties of being on one’s own and jobless in this city so he threw in details on where to get less expensive rent, apply for government assistance and how to dissuade aggressive panhandling junkies.

35 minutes occupied with topics ranging from film to novels, history to art, and clever banter – all with the comfort and ease of old friends.  When the #8 finally arrived, we boarded and took seats in opposite ends of the bus.  No more chatting, no more eye contact.

We were just another form of “Festival Friends.”


Stop button on a London City Bus


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  1. memographer · 2014/02/19 Reply

    Wow. The power of the last sentence! Cold sweat got running down on my back.

    Btw, did you get a job?
    memographer recently posted…The Gothic Gargoyles of Notre Dame de ParisMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/19 Reply

      Memo, I did not land that particular gig. Better luck is sure to follow.

  2. The Guy · 2014/02/13 Reply

    Just goes to show you can meet some really interesting people in the most routine of places. It sounds like this guy was poor of wealth but rich of personality.
    The Guy recently posted…A Review Of The Radisson Hotel AntofagastaMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/14 Reply

      Hey Guy, yes indeed. “Mr. Brown” was one of the most delightful “festival friends” I’ve encountered to date.

  3. Jonathan Look, Jr. · 2014/02/11 Reply

    I love those moments that last a lifetime. Ultimately it is the memories!
    Jonathan Look, Jr. recently posted…A Month in Myanmar (Burma)!My Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/11 Reply

      Hi Jon, hope you’ve recovered from that relaxing yet exciting month (I won’t say where, others can read your blog for more details). *grin*
      You hit the nail on the head. I may never see “Mr. Brown” again but I doubt I’ll forget him (or his beautiful eyes) any time soon.

  4. Jess @UsedYorkCity · 2014/02/11 Reply

    Aww, serendipity? Or just one of a series of 35 minute conversations we have in life with passerbyers? You recreate these moments so, so well Maria!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…A New York Minute In Beckie’s ApartmentMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/11 Reply

      Jess, a little of both. If one is open to the good things in life, they’re often found in moments like this. 😀

  5. northierthanthou · 2014/02/10 Reply

    Beautiful story.
    northierthanthou recently posted…An Uncommon Saint -Kateri TekakwithaMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/10 Reply

      Thanks Dan – Life is peppered with gem-like moments for us to enjoy, if we’ll only take the time to let them happen.

  6. Heather · 2014/02/10 Reply

    Beautiful story! That’s one of the things I always loved about living in NYC. You were never alone, and yet it was so easy to disappear into the crowd. Thinking back on some of my random conversations enjoyed while waiting for something, I wonder if they would have happened had I been staring at my phone like today.
    Heather recently posted…New York City Revisited: A Fanciful RetreatMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/10 Reply

      Heather, phones do not seem to stop anyone from approaching me. I find they’ll start the conversation with questions about it, but I do agree that when you live in a city (I certainly found this to be true in Seattle) you could often blend, or not, according to your mood.

  7. Carlos Lorenzo · 2014/02/10 Reply

    Close encounters of the third kind? It is so difficult to find someone to talk to about something worth listening to these days. So I guess this must have been one of those third kind encounters.
    Carlos Lorenzo recently posted…Frederic Mares Museum, Barcelona: An Act of FaithMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/10 Reply

      Carlos, yes it was definitely a different type of encounter but a very positive one. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Sophie · 2014/02/10 Reply

    This morning, I parked at the train station car park just as another one next to me did. It was a tight fit, so we had to open one car door at a time, making for a little light-hearted banter which continued as we walked towards the platform. Then, when the train arrived, we made a point (or, I suppose, I made a point) of entering a different carriage. Sometimes I just want to read my book in peace.
    Sophie recently posted…Swedish Heritage Sunday: Hanseatic Visby, GotlandMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/10 Reply

      Sophie, therein lies the beauty of it all – you can be friendly and given time, you can share quite a bit, but you also have the option to escape into solitude (and a good book). 😀

  9. Jeff · 2014/02/10 Reply

    There is always that weird guy in the train that funny guy in the bus. I have encountered this so many times especially in public transport. Hope you did get that job.
    Jeff recently posted…Weekly Roundup – Eccentric Airports in the WorldMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/10 Reply

      Jeff, you’re right there is something about public transportation that allows for the impromptu intimacy of strangers. I did not get that job but no worries, I still the see that day as a “win.”

  10. Craig Zabransky · 2014/02/09 Reply

    Besides personally having brown eyes and being excited how the color caught your interest, my
    curiosity centers around –
    -who boarded the bus first? Who made the decision to sit elsewhere…

    Stay decisive, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted…Sunset Sunday-Villa Blanca Cloud Forest, Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/09 Reply

      Craig, I too sport brown orbs :-) I boarded first (‘Mr. Brown’ was a gentleman) and while we couldn’t have sat together, we could have sat closer.

  11. Cathy Sweeney · 2014/02/09 Reply

    Great story. Obviously one that resonates with people, too. Interesting the barriers we set up not wanting to get too close, yet finding temporary engagements enjoyable. Switching to airplanes — I think it’s kind of funny that for a flight of several hours, people won’t converse at all during the flight. But as soon as we land and wait to deplane, we get chatty — now that we’re safe and don’t run the risk of a miserable in-flight experience. I’m guilty of being a little aloof on flights.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted…Second Date on the Napa Valley Wine TrainMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/09 Reply

      Cathy, I was grounded for 24 hours after an emergency landing – my row-mate didn’t speak English and other than the crew, (you can always find me loitering outside the rear galley) I didn’t converse with anyone but ended up making wonderful friends with several passengers during that time… we’ve lost track of each other since but I haven’t forgotten any of them. Bitter sweet travel moments come from all directions. 😀

  12. Mary @ Green Global Travel · 2014/02/09 Reply

    This was so beautiful. I love the way you write. You paint a picture that we can understand. I love reading all of you stuff. You’re very talented. Thank you for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted…5 Great Green Initiatives in GermanyMy Profile

  13. Sharon · 2014/02/08 Reply

    Have you ever considered to self-publish a book? I would totally buy it!
    Sharon recently posted…Easy Tacos RecipeMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/09 Reply

      Thanks so much Sharon. Maybe we could collaborate on something one day. Crazy travel experiences based on specific menus or dishes. 😀

  14. David Bennett · 2014/02/08 Reply

    Ah yes, so true and so nicely told: That shift from intimacy to something less and all brought about by going through a door… in this case, a bus.
    David Bennett recently posted…Big Ben On A Concrete RaftMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/08 Reply

      David, I love your take on this… stepping through a doorway.
      Poetry David.

  15. Mike | Earthdrifter · 2014/02/08 Reply

    What an interesting episode. It reminds us that society can be tough, college educated or not.
    Mike | Earthdrifter recently posted…The Visual Paradise of ValparaisoMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/08 Reply

      Mike, definitely can be tough but can also remind us we’re not alone and everyone has something to offer others – if we’re open to the experience.

  16. Colleen Brynn · 2014/02/08 Reply

    I’ve experienced this plenty when taking public transit… somehow, stepping onto the bus creates a different platform, one where talking is no longer necessary.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted…Let The Games Begin!My Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/08 Reply

      Colleen, so true – the stepping into the bus changed the dynamic.

  17. Regina · 2014/02/08 Reply

    I just love your writings Maria. Always so vivid.

  18. Asia Pacific Travel and Tourism · 2014/02/08 Reply

    Delightful, Maria. Your writing is so visual I can see it happening!

  19. Mette · 2014/02/08 Reply

    Interesting observation, but very typical. Some encounters can get too close too fast, so they need a little distance to settle I guess. Hope the interview went well:)
    Mette recently posted…Beetroot tortelliniMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/08 Reply

      Mette, I love these mini friendships that crop up in the most mundane circumstances.

  20. Lauren Meshkin · 2014/02/07 Reply

    Your writing is always so captivating. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels :)
    Lauren Meshkin recently posted…My Top Places to Eat and Drink in Solvang! #Take12tripsMy Profile

  21. Sherry · 2014/02/07 Reply

    Too funny! I have met some of the most suspicious characters on public transportation. Most especially on planes. I attract the weird, I think.
    Sherry recently posted…Mystified in the Aspen WoodsMy Profile

    • Maria Falvey · 2014/02/07 Reply

      Sherry, I meet interesting people on flights but “characters” on buses. We should share a meal sometime and exchange notes. 😀

  22. Mike · 2014/02/07 Reply

    Oh my gosh this enticing music was playing in my head as background to this enticing promise of something amazing to come.
    Then all of a sudden someone unplugged the proverbial stereo (meaning him).
    Your picture is absolutely PERFECT! Another fantastic read escape for me and thank you, Maria! :)
    Mike recently posted…A Delicious Breakfast Quesadilla For Any Meal Of The DayMy Profile

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