Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Le Tombeau de Couperin

Tuesday night was St. Valentine's Day, in case you missed it. We didn't miss it.

In fact, at the last minute, the Wife and I were given a Valentine's present from Snuffie*: tickets to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra performance that night.

That meant a slight change of plans involving where to eat dinner. But that's not a problem.

Armed with the knowledge that we had two hours after work to be seated in the concert hall, we decided to take a change of clothes to work.

Now, in Columbus, Georgia, not everyone who goes to the symphony wears a tuxedo. Unless they are helping people find their seat ... or are on stage. Columbus isn't a big tux town. Still, for a St. Valentine's Day evening at the symphony with my Special Lady, a tux seemed to be the thing to do.

Oh, did I mention that, since we work three blocks away, we often drive in together? And Tuesday was no exception. And, since it's her week to drive, that meant that I'm at work with a tux hanging on the wall and no means of transportation, save for my own two feet.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I changed into the tuxedo, finished a couple of items, then left.

On foot.


In Columbus Georgia.

Wearing a tuxedo.

As I crossed the streets, or more accurately, as I waited for the lights to change prior to crossing the streets, I got a couple of looks from some of the drivers. Some waves. A few nods. Some smiles.

Because of some construction blocking some of the sidewalks, I had to take a detour down a block that had a bank on one side and a furniture store on another. And at the end of the block, where I had to turn again, was a Subway. The sandwich store, not the underground train.

The Subway shop closes at 5:00 on weekdays. Apparently, they cater to the downtown Columbus crowd, and close up when the downtown work crowd goes home. Anyway, they had their trash on the curb. And in the clear plastic bag was the bread that they throw away. Yes, it's true: Subway serves their sandwiches on fresh bread; old bread gets thrown out.

I noticed that. Actually, the Wife and I had noticed it last week when we were downtown after 5:00 one evening. But, Tuesday, I noticed it again. And, something she said then came to mind a few minutes later, when I passed what appeared to be a homeless man, carrying several plastic bags, stopping at the curbside trash of another business, kicking the dark green plastic bags, and peering intently at the clear plastic bags. He passed up what he saw in that business' trash. After the light changed and I crossed the street in his direction, he continued his trek, shuffling slowly towards the block I had just left.

As we approached, he turned his gaze to his right, looking towards the street, perhaps towards the building across the street, perhaps towards the traffic lights, perhaps at a passing bird or a passing car ... or perhaps just away from me.

I nodded as we passed: me in a tuxedo, him in worn, slightly dirty clothes.

He didn't return the nod. He wasn't looking at me. He avoided my gaze, perhaps because he didn't want to make me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps he was tired of people looking at him with pity, or with disdain, or discomfort ... perhaps he didn't want to make me have to look away. Perhaps, if one or two things had been different, it would have been him in the tux and me searching through garbage, and he was embarrassed. For me or for himself. Or for both.

We passed, and he continued his slow trek towards a bag of thrown-out bread. I continued my walk towards a restaurant where I would enjoy a steak dinner with my wife.


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