I was out for a walk with The Dog late this afternoon. We hit several of the usual stops: the house of a neighbor who is a soft touch for dog biscuits; the schoolyard where every once in a while other dogs are running around; the chicken coop in the adjacent school garden. Then we looped around a long block and started to walk down the street past the school’s track. A man was approaching. Maybe my age (mid-Baby Boom), wearing a sort of black sea captain’s hat, a black pea jacket and heavy black trousers. He had big mutton-chop whiskers and was otherwise rather roughly shaven. He looked — well, not quite like he was living on the street, but like he was used to living outdoors.
As we passed each other, he stopped and said, “Can I ask you a really random question?”
“Sure,” I said, thinking that I was about to hear a roundabout request for any money I could spare.
“Do you know where I can buy some polyester pants?”
“You know, some slacks, some polyester dress slacks.”
That did qualify as a really random question. But I tried to think of where you could go in Berkeley, even late on a Sunday afternoon, to find the desired item. Ross in downtown Berkeley. Or maybe the Halmar work clothes store on University Avenue. Or the J.C. Penney up at Hilltop Mall …
And that was it. Maybe that line of questioning would have led to the subject of money. But my new acquaintance just thanked me, turned, and walked up the street. The dog and I walked on toward home, and I’m still wondering if I’ve ever worn polyester pants.