I was riding home along a bike route and a man on the sidewalk across the road waved to me. He was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. He had a piece of paper in his hand and a baby strapped to his chest. The baby was facing outward, like a tandem parachutist.
I looped around and pulled up next to him. The man held out the piece of paper. The baby stared at me. He was dressed in blue and had fine black hair that stood straight up.
The piece of paper was torn from a realtor’s pad. I have the same pad at home in a drawer. Such pads arrive unbidden in the mailbox and are perfect for grocery lists.
An address was written on the paper, along with a woman’s name, which was not the name of the realtor. The street was apparently a cul-de-sac somewhere nearby. I hadn’t heard of it. Generally the only people who know of particular cul-de-sacs are those who live there.
“I’ll phone someone,” I said. I got off my bike to dig out my phone. My plan was to phone home. No doubt someone would be sitting in front of a computer, next to a phone.
For some reason my calls wouldn’t go through, either to the land line or to two different cells.
“My phone isn’t working,” I said.
The man said, “No English.”
I said, “No Mandarin.” We laughed at our shared inadequacy.
I said hello to the baby.
The man bounced the baby up and down to make it seem that the child appreciated being spoken to.
I tried the phone again and this time it worked. My son answered. I asked him to Google the address. Within no time he had a map in front of him and could describe how to get there.
I gestured with my arms, describing the route. I probably looked like I was explaining how to hang wallpaper. The baby’s eyes darted around. The man didn’t understand.
I got back on my bike. “Follow me,” I said. I beckoned. I wheeled out onto the road, to the far side.
The man nodded. But instead of following, he walked a few doors down in the opposite direction to a parked SUV. I hadn’t connected him with the vehicle. He opened the driver door. I assumed he was going to get in and drive after me. He didn’t. He reached in and pulled out a stack of folded brown paper bags, the kind that are meant for yard clippings. They were bound together with plastic strapping.
He came trotting across the road, his flip-flops making swip-swap sounds, with the baby bouncing against him.
“You don’t want to drive?” I asked. I made steering-wheel arm movements.
He shook his head and held up the stack of bags. “Robert have a poo poo,” he said. He pointed at the baby.
I must give him credit for speaking more English than I can speak Mandarin, but I don’t understand how a stack of yard clipping waste bags would be very useful in this situation.
On we went, me peddling slowly, the man and Robert trotting alongside. It wasn’t a long ride—a right turn followed by another. I pointed at the house and said the number that was written on the piece of paper.
He nodded happily.
Then at the very same instant, we both said, “Have a nice day.”
I rode off, and the man went to change a diaper, somehow.