While Waiting for the Trolley by Mike Bozart - HTML preview

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At 7:38 AM on a still-very-much-scummer, [sic] already steamy, stagnant-air-mass Friday, the 7th of September (2018), I found my freckle-flecked-forearms, 54-year-old self at the first outbound Gold Line streetcar stop in uptown Charlotte (NC, USA). A returning faux-vintage trolley passed behind my back on East Trade Street. I rechecked the time on my cheapo LG cell phone as I stood on the concrete median, staring at three, fairly-old-for-this-raze-and-replace-burg, party-walled-together, two-and-three-story buildings. I became absorbed in my thoughts (once again). That’s an odd time for that trolley to be arriving. Did it do the whole run in just eight minutes? Usually it takes twelve to thirteen. Is it not running on the quarter-hour? Maybe it no longer runs on set times. Hope it leaves soon. Already late for work. Wonder who is already there. The boss? Wonder when those charming-for-this-neopolis, [sic] bygone-era buildings encounter Mr. Wrecking Ball. Could they possibly be spared? Build around and over them? Doubt it; that’s not the Charlotte way. They sure would make for some cool apartments. Seem to have the same thoughts every time I glance at that trio. [of buildings]

I then looked down at the black-painted metal railing. Tiny brown ants were feasting upon some spilled soda residue. And to the right of them, a line of scratched-in graffiti arrested my eye.

I’d be a genius if I weren’t so dumb. - SMH

I chuckled to myself, hoping that the seven other people waiting for the tram didn’t hear me. My mind ran with it. That’s good stuff. Never know what one might read on these railings. Should use this in the next short story. Did someone add ‘SMH’ after reading this line? Or, is it the graffiti-ist’s initials? Shake my head. So outrageous.

Then a short, wiry, white guy of about my age with graying hair, wearing a white T-shirt with block-letter text – Charlotte Basketball – walked up. He had a green Philadelphia Eagles cap on. I thought about his blue-sleeve-ends shirt. That’s not a [Charlotte] Hornets garment. Nor is it of any Charlotte college or high school. Kind of a strange T-shirt. What the hell is ‘Charlotte Basketball’? Some amateur league for the over-50 crowd? Damn, I’m now in that crowd, too. Just a grain of sand nearing the bottleneck in the big hourglass. Almost done it seems. And really didn’t get much of anything accomplished. Just another airball. [a basketball shot that misses badly – hits nothing but air]

He then asked me what time it was. I gladly told him and figured that would be it. But then he asked:

“How often does this trolley run?”

“That’s the million-dollar question,” I replied and then chuckled. “It used to run every fifteen minutes on weekdays. However, I have my doubts now, as that returning trolley came back at an odd time. Maybe it will roll out of its berth in five minutes.”

“Thanks. I’m not really that familiar with it. But, 7:45 will work for me. My job at PRN [Promise Resource Network] is about a mile from the CPCC [Central Piedmont Community College] stop. I can’t wait for it to be extended over Independence.” [Expressway – US 74]

“Yeah, that will be nice,” I agreed. “Though, I think that doesn’t happen until sometime in 2020.”

“I just wish that they would hurry up and reconstruct the Hawthorne [Lane] bridge,” he stated. “I would just like to be able to walk over it.”

“Yeah, me, too. I used to use it when I rode my bike to work.”

“What kind of bike?” he asked with genuine interest.

“Oh, it’s just a Walmart one-speed. I’ve customized it, though. Replaced just about everything but the frame.” I chuckled.

He grinned. “Well, why aren’t you on it today, man?”

“Too warm. If the morning low isn’t below 65°, [Fahrenheit; 18.3° Celsius] I don’t ride. I’ll just be too sweaty after the six miles. [9.6 km] It was 73° [Fahrenheit; 22.8° Celsius] when I walked out the door to catch my first bus.”

“What bus was that?” he asked, seeming quite curious to know.

“The 222 on the east side,” I informed.

“And which was your second bus?” he then asked.

“The 9,” I answered.

“If you were on an inbound 9 bus, why are you now here waiting for this outbound trolley?” Has this red-haired guy lost his marbles?

“Ok, here’s the honest, somewhat amusing, ridiculous truth. It’s a medium-long answer.”

“I’ve got time for it. Doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere for a while.” He laughed.

I laughed, too, as I looked at my cell phone. Damn, it’s 7:49. Is it rolling out at 7:50? Does it run every twenty minutes now? :10, :30, :50? Hope so.

He sneezed.

“Ok, this is why I’m here waiting for the outbound trolley. The 9 bus that I got on at the old Eastland Mall site was an express-type bus that didn’t have a rear exit door. Perhaps the usual city bus broke down. Anyway, as the bus plied Central Avenue, it filled to the brim. I mean it was the most sardine-packed bus that I’ve ever been on in Charlotte. Standees occupied the whole length of the center aisle. When we arrived at my stop – Kings Drive and Elizabeth Avenue – there was simply no way to get off the bus in time, as my seat was near the back. Thus, I had to ride it to the transit center. And, that’s why I’m here now.”

He guffawed for several seconds. “I once experienced something like that on a bus in the outer Philly metro.”

“Whereabouts?” I asked.

“Phoenixville. It’s just west of Valley Forge, if you know where that is. The bus driver just kept letting people board. It was insane. Then someone ripped a most hellacious fart. Talk about a ‘get me the fuck outta here’ moment.”

I chortled for four seconds. “I hear ya, man. Hey, I recently wrote a short story titled The Hermit that had a main female character from King of Prussia.”

“Been through there many times,” he solemnly informed. “Are you a professional writer?”

“Well, I’m trying to get to my day job now.” I chuckled.

“It’s tough to make a living off of a creative endeavor,” he declared. “You need some luck. I’ve seen many maestros washing dishes in my travels.”

“Are you originally from Philadelphia?” I then asked.

“You see the cap? E-A-G-L-E-S – Eagles! Did you see the game last night?”

“I fell asleep in the first quarter.”

“It was ugly with another scary finish, but we beat them [Atlanta Falcons] once again.” [18-12]

“You must have loved last season’s Super Bowl.”

“It was a long, LONG time coming. Many decades of grief. Before last season, not much since Ron Jaworski.”

“I remember Jaws. A good quarterback. And now a good analyst.”

“Yeah, he’s decent at it. What time is it now?”

“7:54,” I answered. “Surely it departs on the top of the hour.”

“I sure hope so, man. Really need to be there by 8:30. The walk takes about twenty minutes. I like the job; don’t want to lose it.”

“Yeah, you don’t want to lose a tolerable job; most are dreadful from my experience.”

“Are you from Charlotte?” he then asked.

“The family moved here when I was eight. I’ve lived in many other places since then, though. I really can’t stand the summer here anymore; it’s a five-month-long sauna.”

“Hey, Charlotte is an up-and-coming city. I’ve been here for seven years. It has some issues, but trust me, all American cities do. I’ve been all around the country.”

“What’s the issue that bothers you the most?” I enquired.

“Well, it’s hard to get good avocados here.” What in the world?! That’s his pressing civic issue? This is hilarious. Will definitely have to write this up on my lunchbreak.

“Oh, really?”

“Oh yeah, man. When I was out west in San Diego, I got spoiled.”

“Here comes our streetcar now.”

“A streetcar named Patience.”

“Good one. Touchdown!”

“Should I go for two?” he asked and then guffawed.

I laughed, too. “Ok, a final question before we get on this clanker.”


“What’s the strangest question that anyone has asked you in this town?”

“That would have to be what this waiter asked me at a pizza parlor on Eastway. [Drive] ‘Do you know how many people on average die each day?’ [153,425 as of Sept. 7, 2018] I was like ‘where the hell did that come from?’ A really weird guy. What about you?” Was he ‘The Waiter’? [a short story]

“While walking up Commonwealth Avenue two decades ago on a warm-to-rapidly-approaching-hot, sunny, mid-spring afternoon, a 30-something dude in a silver sports car stopped and asked me: ‘What’s the best way to Québec City?’ I still think that he was just going around pranking people, and possibly videoing the responses. Mine may be on YouTube somewhere.”

“I[nterstate] - 77 was correct.” Huh?


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