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Honoring the Quiet, Waiting Man

Today I suggest a modest memorial to the modest man who lives both among us and within us. He is the quiet gentleman who defers, serves, assists, and waits.

A dullish, solid small bronze statue on a pedestal would be appropriate, with the quiet man depicted as rumpled and bulky, a fuddy-duddy in frumpy garb and unfashionable hat.

 Look as he checks his bronzed left wrist, forever hoping that the minutes and hours on display are wrong, because if the time on his watch is accurate he’s missed yet another bus or railroad car or airplane.

Or in this case, taxi. Like the previous two or two hundred, the estimated Times of Departure roll silently by. The Waiting Man quietly wonders when his wife will be prepared to depart. Right now she is upstairs considering a different pair of shoes, and it won’t take her but a minute or two to decide.

And once different footwear is selected she’ll need time to choose a suitable outfit to coordinate with them. Again. Her various clothing options (dresses, suits, pantsuits, jackets, jewelry, hosiery, and makeup) are all within easy reach, except for wardrobe items in the attic. She’ll be ready in a jiffy.

She asks the Waiting Man why he’s in such a darn hurry.

He looks at his wristwatch.

Placed around him on the bronze pedestal are six or eight pieces of bronzed luggage: a small suitcase and a large one, a few carry-on pieces, a steamer trunk. None contain wardrobe items belonging to the Waiting Man himself.

Close scrutiny of the smallish statue would reveal he’s wearing three sport coats, two neckties and a parka. A trench coat is draped over his right arm; an umbrella hangs beside it. All this, plus four pair of trousers he’s wearing and five sets of socks make him look bulky, but when he arrives at his destination he will shed all but basic clothing and be revealed as small, slight and unassuming.

His garments, few in total, are all he owns, and will fit neatly on a motel clothes rack.

But now, and it is always now in the land of statues and memorials, the quiet, uncomplaining Waiting Man continues to monitor the time. The minutes roll by in an endless stream leading to this moment and well beyond, and he will always stand quietly contemplating, for instance, a Yellow Cab arrival but unwilling to get his hopes up, then dashed yet again by rash assumptions.

Better to let his mind rest and his expectations dwindle to zero; he will simply wait. He is good at waiting. He has practiced many years.

All his life he has waited for honors, recognition, a promotion, his picture in the newspaper, the Browns to win a Super Bowl, a signal from God, a break.

He knows Godot will never arrive, and whenever the Waiting Man goes to a tavern to check on The Iceman’s arrival it seems to take darn near forever just to get a drink. Better to just stay here and be content with what arrives, and when.

There is no hurrying to be done, no reason to grow impatient with the time because time exists outside his power to control or regulate or understand it. So he waits.

He waits for dreams to fade and hope to die. He waits for a tomorrow that never comes. He waits for a helping hand. He waits for his wife to decide if the lace-up brown shoes look right with her blue canvas purse.

He waits for one of these days to arrive or for tomorrow to depart. He offers no response other than a shrug when his wife asks if this pair of earrings look OK.

 Then finally she arrives wrapped in subtle maroon plaids and bold orange stripes, and his long wait is over. The slow luggage drag and hump to the Taxi stand begins.

The Man Who Waits and defers halts briefly at a sidewalk vendor to pick out a candy bar, and his wife says, “What now? I thought you were in such a big hurry.”

* * *

A SOMBER STATUE would be a fitting tribute to the perpetually waiting man. No taller than five or so feet in height would emphasize his quiet, inconspicuous demeanor and deferential manner, his willingness to sacrifice himself at the whims and convenience of others.

The statue would fit nicely in a remote corner at Todd Grove Park or on a sidewalk at a busy shopping mall in Los Angeles. He’d complement the Cloverdale Rail Station platform perfectly.

There, perched at a slight angle to the north to suggest him peering far down the tracks, as if checking to see if the 7:08 southbound is at last a-comin’ ’round the bend. But no. It’s running late.

He looks at his watch and waits.

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