Slice of Life Story Challenge March 19 -Strange Visitors From Another Planet

My step daughter, Jane commutes each day to the city on the train for her work. She has begun documenting her travel observations on Facebook. They make interesting reading.

Jane told the story of the small man who entered the train carriage on one recent morning wearing a metal helmet. Another man began shaving. She relates such tales on a daily basis. She has become enmeshed in a kind of Bizarro world, where weird and wonderful characters present themselves for observation each and every morning. They appear to be seeking her out for some form of recognition it seems. Look at me, look at me!

Her stories have activated memories of my travels on the New York transport system. My daily travels on trains and buses allowed me the luxury of some outstanding bizarro experiences. One particular memory stands out however.  It took place on the No 38 bus travelling down DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene area one workday afternoon.

I climbed on board and nonchalantly sat down. When I looked up, directly opposite me sat a small, elderly man. The first thing I noticed was his seemingly well-tended grey beard. He was seated right next to the front exit. He was almost gnome like in stature, but this was not what boggled my eyes. It was his outfit. He wore a turquoise tracksuit of dazzling intensity. Over this he wore a pair of loose fitting lime green shorts. The legs of his tracksuit were tucked neatly into a pair of matching lime green socks pulled up to calf height. He wore a lime green woolen cap adorned with a small, red flashing light in the centre. He also wore a bright yellow mask that was pulled up onto his forehead. It reminded me of the type of mask one associates with masquerade balls. On both knees he wore large, black kneepads, not unlike the kind worn by a small minority of skateboarders, or old floor tilers with arthritic knees. Around his shins he wore two larger flashing red lights. They were the kind one more frequently sees on the back of a bicycle. His feet were resplendent in neat black slippers with shiny silver zippers. As he sat there flashing on and off, his little eyes darted left, then right. I began to speculate on what he may be contemplating. My first thought was that he might well have been an ultra safety conscious cyclist in search of a conveyance. But why the yellow mask?

A young woman securely wrapped in a winter coat and hat boarded the bus and squeezed into the last available seat on the bus. Ironically it happened to be right next to my little flashing man. Her immediate response was to stare straight ahead. She wore a hat that almost covered her eyes and as she reached up to push it further back on her head she began to grow increasingly aware of the little man beside her. She snuck a furtive look at his flashing shins, then discretely moved her eyes towards his flashing cap. She turned her face away like a naughty child. The look on her bemused face said it all.

When the bus stopped outside Fort Greene Park, the focus of our attention was quite literally gone in a flash.-Down the steps and on his way. We who remained on board were left to wonder about the strangely attired visitor seemingly from another time and place.

Later that week I was talking to my friend Michael about my latest sighting. I told him of the strange little man adorned in gaudy colours and flashing lights.

Michael immediately replied, “I know the guy you’re talking about! When we lived in St. Felix Street, he used to do laps of our block”
“On a bike?” I inquired, keen to confirm my theory.
“No, he just used to walk or dance his way along the street.”
Then Michael described in perfect detail the outfit I had seen the man wearing on the bus.
Hmm, a visitor from another planet perhaps?  I wondered who would visit me next?
The little man was not my last visitor. They have kept coming over the years since then. I love the way they just pop in and out of my life.
Half baked cookies on the sidewalk
Half baked people on my the bus 
There’s a little bit of fruitcake
Left in every one of us

Jimmy Buffett  ‘Fruitcakes’


  1. I'm a New Yorker and it always fascinates me how small a city it truly is…your story illustrates the point! And yes, we are a bunch of aliens but thank goodness many of us supremely stylish ones.


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