Every morning on my way to work, I pass a man walking down the side of the road. He is always on the same stretch of road and is always wearing dark slacks, a short sleeve button-down shirt, a sweater vest, and a dark blue, unmarked baseball cap. He carries a satchel slung across his body and over one shoulder and sometimes has a windbreaker tied to the strap of his bag. He is tall and thin. He does not walk very slowly or very quickly. He looks neither happy not unhappy to be walking down the road. He is not trudging along as though this walking were a tiresome chore. In fact, he may have a slight bounce to his step. This bounce, however, seems more his natural gait rather than an expression of any emotion.
The road where I see this man is a busy one - six lanes with lots of traffic. I have never seen another pedestrian. Every time I see him, I try to figure or imagine who he is and why he walks along the shoulder of this road each morning. I think that he must be walking to work. There are a number of businesses in the direction he walks and his clothes could be business casual in an office or perhaps the attire of a supervisor or manager in one of the small factories along this road. He may live nearby, but the nearest residential areas are a few miles from where I see him. He could be coming from a bus, but this is far out into the suburbs and there is very little public transportation. The only bus stops nearby are for the buses that run directly from the Metro to one of the large corporate campuses a couple of miles further up the road. I always see him near a parking lot for a bike path that cuts across the area and I wonder sometimes if he parks his car there before heading off down the shoulder, but that would make little sense.
I find myself building a life for him, and an explanation for his presence. I imagine his family, his history, what sort of work he does. I construct elaborate explanations for why he walks in a place where people only drive. I form opinions about this man based on where and how he walks, what he wears. I wonder what opinions he forms about me as I drive by.
I am tempted, on some mornings, to pull over and offer him a ride to wherever he is going in exchange for his story.