I’d rather be reading, too


The traffic light where Ninth Street crosses Philadelphia Street and turns into Oakland Avenue is nearly always red when I reach it. And though I’m very nearly always turning right past the Ninth Street Deli to head out of town, it’s one of those no-turn-on-red intersections, and so I find myself reading the local radio station’s news scroll on the bank across the street.

But this particular evening, as I adjusted my sunglasses before heading west into the setting sun, the news scroll was all old stories I’d known (or written) all day, and a man reading on the library’s wide stone steps caught my attention.

His white hair poked out from the bottom of a black, unadorned ball cap; a blue shirt was tucked into his jeans, and he wore blue, high-topped tennis shoes. His glasses were pushed low on his nose as he read, shaded by the library wall from the still-hot sunshine.

And suddenly I was jealous, wishing I were reading on the library steps or my own front porch rather than heading off to another long and contentious school board meeting. And I couldn’t even tell you what about the man caught my attention; perhaps it was the simplicity of his evening, lost in the pages of a book on an early-summer evening in a small town where even a newcomer like I often pass a neighbor on my short walk home from work.

I guess he caught one of my co-worker’s attention too; his photo appeared on the back of the next day’s paper, sitting just the way he was when I passed him. She asked the title of his book: It was “Calculus Made Easy.” Guess his night wasn’t as relaxing as I thought when I watched him turn the pages, before the light at Ninth and Philadelphia turned green.

(You can see the picture here)

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