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Hon, You're in Baltimore
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William P. Tandy
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de Grace, MD
| Excerpt from Smile,
Hon, You're in Baltimore!
"'Scuse me, sir," the passing stranger said
to me as I cut through the hospital lobby around lunchtime. "I was wonderin' if
I could ask you a question."
"Sure," I replied. "What is it, man?"
of all, I want to say 'thank you' for taking the time an' acknowledgin' me and
not behavin' like a snob like all these other people, pretendin' I'm not even
here. I'm just tryin' to get back home, is all. By the way," he added,
extending his hand, "name's Paul."
"Pleased to meet ya," I said over a quick a
handshake. "Where's home?"
"Pittsburgh," he answered. "I've been
around Baltimore, tryin' to find a job. An' ya know what? Can't find a one
anywhere. Now I'm just tryin' to get back home."
I tried all the restaurants and places like that around downtown. None of 'em
"Restaurants?" I mused. "Did you try Fells
"Fells Point, yeah, I tried all around
there. Nothin' ."
that's what I mean. I can't find nothin', an' that's why I'm tryin' to get back
home.There's a Greyhound that leaves in about 45 minutes from the depot over on
Fayette, but I still need a few bucks to afford a ticket. Tell me, have you
ever been to Pittsburgh?"
yeah?" he said. "It's a nice place, huh? I love it. That's why I'm tryin' to
get back there. Like I said, I'm a couple bucks shy of the bus fare, though,
and it's leavin' in 45 minutes."
What the hell, I thought. Truth or not,
it's a good story, at least.
"Here's a buck," I said, handing him one of
the last three from my pocket. "Good luck, man."
you," he said. "I really appreciate it. If ya wanna give me your address, I can
send it back to ya when I get there."
"For a dollar, don't worry about it."
Neither, I'm sure, did he.
The other day, I sat reading in the heat of
Penn Station, waiting for the Light Rail to make its appearance at the cold and
dirty concrete platform below.
"'Scuse me, sir," a voice approached from a
few feet away.
"Hmmmm?" I looked up.
of all," he said, taking a seat beside me on the hard wooden bench, "I want to
thank you for takin' the time to acknowledge me and not behavin' like a snob
like the rest of these people. Pretendin' I'm not even here. Ya see, I'm
"Yeah," he replied with a nod of
recognition. "I talked to you before, didn't I?"
around the hospital, right?"
"That was it."
work down there?"
"In the vicinity. You were trying to get
back home to Pittsburgh."
The silence that followed was too organic
to be awkward.
"Yeah," he said, finally. Then, with a
trace of disgust, "And can you believe it? I'm still here!"
looked off in the opposite direction, toward the morning mass of people flowing
through the heart of the station -some just arriving, some just leaving, some
just going around and around, unsure of either.
know what time it is?" he asked.
"About twenty to eight," I said from
routine, without looking at my watch.
"Hmmmm. Well, you have a good day."
Then came the ringing bell of the Light
Rail, arriving at the station; we stood up, bound in different directions, and
headed for work.