Sitting at a stoplight, you can create some pretty fanciful stories. I know this because, on occasion, I sit at stop lights and, from time to time, I fabricate stories about the people sitting in the cars beside me or behind me or in front of me. Now, it’s possible the stories are true, but I tend to think not, because the degree of coincidence would be beyond staggering.
To my left, an elderly woman I’ll call Lenora, for no reason other than wanting to affix a name to her, is a drug dealer. No, not that kind. But she does make frequent trips to Canada, where she loads up on prescription medications used to treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure and smuggles them back into the U.S., where she sells them to her elderly friends at steep discounts from sky-high domestic prices. She was a nurse until the time she retired at age seventy. Until she retired, she had access to free medications, though the access was not legal then, either. In addition to her illegal healthcare volunteerism, she volunteers at the animal shelter, where she helps dogs abused by previous masters develop renewed trust in humans. She has said, publicly, that she would cheerfully kill anyone who would mistreat animals the way these dogs have been mistreated, if given the opportunity. She does not know it now, but one of those people will attempt, in a state of advanced inebriation, to cross the highway in front of her a few miles from here and she will unwittingly do exactly that, absent the cheer.
Behind me, in a Tesla, is a very wealthy guy who gets his enjoyment from flaunting his wealth. What he’d rather not share, though, is that he accrued his wealth through the utter abandonment of any shred of morality. He’s the sort of person who would sell his own children if the price were right and, in fact, moved his aged parents from a top-notch assisted living facility to a cheap and dangerous nursing home to save money he didn’t need. Fortunately for the fates, his children learned from their father; history will repeat itself in just a few years.
The guy in front of me, Hector Seabrook, just got off work and he’s anxious to get home to his studio, where he can erase the memories of the dull and mindless day he spent sitting behind a desk. In his studio, he has a pottery wheel, two kilns, and a slab roller. Behind the studio, in a partially enclosed area on a concrete pad, he maintains an array of welding equipment, including arc welder, MIG welder, oxygen acetylene welder, and plasma cutter. His dog—Glisten, a mixed-breed mutt, probably part Labrador retriever and part beagle, he’s had for six years—keeps him company in his studio while he throws clay pots and creates metal art. Today, after two or three hours of making art, Seabrook will spend at least two hours watching old Jackie Chan movies before getting in bed, with Glisten at his feet. Tonight, he will dream of buying and rebuilding an old fire engine. Tomorrow, while he is at work, a thief will break in to his house. Glisten, one of the gentlest animals you can imagine, will defend herself when the criminal takes a swing at her with a crowbar, thinking she is a watch dog. When Hector arrives home tomorrow, he will find a dead intruder, who bled out from a single puncture wound to a major artery from a canine tooth.
The guy in the giant shiny pickup truck to my right invested in exhaust system alterations. He figured his jacked up pickup with twenty inch wheels did not adequately represent his manhood, so he had his muffler enhanced. He undertook this augmentation because virility by proxy was his only chance at studhood. Need I say more? Well, his job as a telephone lineman pays reasonably well, but not nearly well enough for him to afford all of his man-toys; the truck, an ATV, an arsenal of guns, two boats, along with a nice house and shop on ten acres. He is in debt up to and beyond his eyeballs and has absolutely no savings. His house of cards will come crashing down after losing his job following his arrest for DWI, later this evening.
It would be interesting to compare the reality of the people sitting at a stoplight with the stories I manufacture about them. Alas, that will not happen, will it?