A longtime character returned to the office for the first time in a while.
But he’s someone I’ve never seen, and no one else I work with is sure they’ve ever seen him, either.
He’s a guy — at least we think he’s one guy — who takes showers in the public bathroom of our office building in the early afternoon, we assume after working out in the small exercise room.
But what makes him notable is that his shower is accompanied by loud music, usually 1980s and 1990s rock, and yes, I have heard him sing.
Because I’ve never seen him, I don’t know if he’s the same guy who every time I see him — and I’ve worked in the same building for more than four years — I’m convinced is the former state senator and now mayor of the town where I used to live.
Go anywhere regularly, and you’ll probably become familiar with the regulars, even if you never interact with them or know them as anything other than the nickname you gave them privately.
At my gym, for example, among the people who is there all the time is a young, red-headed guy whose name I actually do know, but I’ve never spoken to him and I just think of him as the guy who seems like he runs things in the back where all the hardcore people work out with the free weights.
And there’s also Mr. Dibs.
But the greatest source of characters was the train stations from the days when my wife used to commute to Boston.
There was the boys lacrosse team from a local Catholic school, and the guy whose hair and wardrobe had me convinced his greatest bliss was a 1977 Iron Maiden concert at The Spectrum in Philadelphia.
There was Valderrama, based on the resemblance to the former Colombian soccer star.
There was Mama and Son, featuring a very large adult son and his very small backpack, although I saw less of him after she started hanging out with …
… Sergei, who looked the part of a Soviet apparatchik, right down to his standard-issue charcoal-gray suit and black briefcase.
One woman always seemed to be in a bad mood, unless she was with her friend, and there was a guy who waited for his wife with a little dog who got way too excited when we got off the train.
A couple of my friends seemingly had doppelgängers riding the train.
And then there was Woman With Way Too Much SUV.
Every day, she would try to back her SUV into the parking spot a few spaces from where my wife and I waited, and every day, she would fail miserably. At minimum, it would take her three or four tries, and that’s when she wasn’t bumping the curb.
We’re pretty sure she turned her head one day and realized us laughing at her struggles.
These people only existed in my life for a few minutes at the beginning and end of every day, as we waited for my wife’s train to arrive.
But they became such a part of the landscape, it wouldn’t have been the same without them there.