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The First Impression

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

During my pre-teen years, I enjoyed going to the flea market on occasion. With the exception of a few booths, my focus was not on the items for sale. No, even young I found enjoyment in people watching.

Sometimes I positioned myself at a strategic location where I was guaranteed a high passer-by count. Other times I would simply pace the corridors, working my way through the mixed outdoor and indoor facility.

No matter which method I employed, there was always one game I enjoyed playing. It was simple, really. I would select a stranger from the crowd who stood out to me in some way and deem them the mark.

Making predictions and observations all the while, I followed the mark through the bazaar. My early appreciation for psychology notwithstanding, the biggest thrill was in tailing invisibly.

I never was confronted by any of the people I spied upon, but just the same I cannot know if someone did notice. Looking back I figure no one did, due to my age and even younger appearance at the time.

Present day.

Cruising west on Tennessee Street, the abrupt and aggressive driving of a white coupe catches my attention. I watch as this car, whose sole occupant I call Doyle, weaves through the traffic getting closer and closer in the mirror.

When the coupe does catch-up, I am sitting at a traffic light. While waiting I can see Doyle visibly pissed about something. I assume his commentary and gesturing are to himself as no telephone is seen.

The light turns green, Doyle speeds away and I decide to follow. I am not sure why I was suddenly compelled, but with no particular agenda I had the freedom to indulge.

In a move absent of shock worthiness, Doyle's driving continues to be poor and erratic. Changing lanes in an intersection, speeding and tailgating are just some of the moving infractions I witnessed.

It can be more difficult to tail someone in a car than by foot, but the medium traffic and large name-brand sticker on Doyle's back window made the task an easy one. It was the Volcom logo, by the way.

My turn was still a minute up the road when I saw the coupe take a needlessly wide right into the liquor store, as if it were a semi-tractor trailer. I only have a second to make my mind and decide to continue my pursuit.

As I pass through the automatic doors I expect to find Doyle exemplifying the person I have developed in my head—a crazed, selfish and impatient asshole taking his frustrations out on the world.

"Doing great, yes, ma'am," I hear as I walk in.

There is a bottle of something on the counter along with a six-pack of beer. Doyle stands without moving as the cashier does her thing.

"Oh, I nearly forgot," he exclaims suddenly while sliding right to peek at the cigarette selection. "I'll take a pack of Marlboro lights, too, please." I could not figure out how this was the same person.

Before I knew it, bidding farewell in an upbeat tone, Doyle grabbed his purchases and exited the store even saying hello to another patron entering. I pay for my beer and contemplate.

I have had bad drives before and stopping is a great way to give the mind a little reset. Maybe that is what Doyle needed, just a little consideration and a moment to breathe. Perhaps it was I who was quick to label and judge.

The coupe backs out and accelerates toward the street, screeching to a halt at the sidewalk as two pedestrians stop short of jumping back for fear of being hit. Doyle honks at them, peels out onto Tennessee, cuts another driver off and speeds away.