Missing Strangers…


Do you ever wonder what might have happened to people who are essentially strangers to us?   

Next door to my office building is a retirement & assisted living place -  it used to have the word "Alzheimer's"  in the name and we joked about just trading one place for the other as our minds went; usually with the assumption that too much work was going to cause such a decline.

Anyway – over the last couple of months every morning, as I've walked past, an elderly man has been outside hiding behind a pillar enjoying a cigarette.  Every morning I would say "good morning how are you?" and he'd respond with a loud and cheery: "Good morning to you and I'm great"   

The last few mornings he was not there and I wondered if he had died or been caught.  It crossed my mind that I might never know -  I don't think I would've gone inside to enquire about the health of a man having a forbidden cigarette.   

I was so relived to see him back this morning that I almost said "oh thank God you are ok"….    I really had been quite concerned about someone whose name I don't even know.


The bike below used to appear near the office during the day and then be gone by evening.  Then it arrived and stayed.  And stayed and stayed.   If this had been anywhere near I live, it would've been stripped within a few hours.  After more than a month the rear tyre is flat but no-one has stolen the helmet or attempted to steal spare parts from the bike.  

So,  where is the owner?   Did they die at their desk?  Did they walk to the shops at lunch time and get run-over crossing the road?   Or perhaps they developed Alzheimer's and forgot they owned a bike.

I hate not knowing…..  and unlike the missing elderly man, where I could've enquired if I'd wanted to, there is no-one to ask about the bike's owner.  

October 16th -  I had walked past it for a week before I started wondering about its missing owner.

November 6th

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31 responses

  1. Yes, isn't that funny? I've seen a few "locals" on regular schedules and I can't believe how upset I am when they vanish. I'm glad your kind stranger was okay! There's actually a homeless man who plays guitar and walks the railroad tracks in a nearby town, I think he's cool and I worry that he isn't getting the life he deserves.
    You could hypothetically call the police about the bike, or the city, I'd think….

  2. It kinda give some happiness, some peace of mind to just see the people whom we have been just seeing regularly while just passing by. Crowded Indian streets, there are lots of people who make their living on the roadsides, cobblers, street hawkers or the ''-wallas" and some people who sit and stare at the roads under the trees or an almost ruined pillars or roofs. Some times there are people who would just wave hands at you. Mostly, the street sellers whom I see regularly.. I have missed them many times, when they changed their places. Very recenly, I visited the town where I was living for quite sometime. I was surprised when one shop keeper remembered me and asked, "I have not been seeing you for a long period, have you got settled somewhere else" – I have not even talked to this person.. some people create some impact in our daily life for sure .. Cheers!

  3. I remember "the walking man" as we called him. He walked for miles all around from the freeway to our shopping centers, all the places where we were driving, he walked with a long coat, a funky hat and a walking stick. It was hard to tell if he was young or old, although we assumed young. But did he have no job? Was he homeless? All times of the day and night, in all the seasons, we could see him walking as we drove to and from. My son said he and his friends had often offered him rides, but he always declined. Then one time he was gone. I haven't seen the walking man for several years now.

  4. Excellent topic for discussion Emjay.Karens story reminds me (Snowy I think knows more about this guy, even though I actually see him often) of the eighty year old recluse who lives somewhere in the bush 25 km out of Cairns. A highly educated immigrant who chose to drop out of society. We pass him jogging into town wearing only tattered trousers and sandshoes with a sugar sack over his shoulder to put supplies in for the return journey.We know that one day we will see him no more and our lives will be just a little less complete because of his absence.

  5. How thought provoking your words are. Did you ever think that the man might notice when you don't go by and say hello, also? Sometimes our few words make all the difference in someone's life. Thank you for reminding me that a word or a smile can make a difference.

  6. He sounds fascinating …. if he is jogging at age 80 he might be one day wondering what's happened to those around him! You are right though – their presence is felt in our own lives even when our interaction is only passing.

  7. Did you ever think that the man might notice when you don't go by. Actually I have wondered a little bit about that .. I have also wondered how the "oldies" might be treated inside the home and how many smiles he gets during the day. This morning he had to huddle under an eave because it was raining – I imagine he might be a bit of a character.

  8. Strangers coming and going on easy terms, reminds me of a Bowie song as we trip in and out of each others lives meeting by smiles drifting away like forgotten faces, so hard to remember!

  9. I tend to see the same people on my train in the mornings but haven't actually given them as much thought as people like my old man. I guess I just assume they have missed the train that morning.

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