L'homme de l'hôtel de ville

On any given day, there are likely many elderly men going through Sydney's Town Hall station, but one in particular I see nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. In the morning I might rush past him on my way to work in Balmain. In the evenings I have scurried past him on my way back home in the cold and dark.

The old man of Town Hall is easily noticeable because of his very unique features. The first thing you are likely to notice about him is the wide-brimmed straw hat he always wears. Beneath the brim of the hat protrudes a nose, and below that cascades a massive white beard down his chest. It is the kind of beard that would give Gandalf the Wizard beard envy. In fact, I often wonder if secretly the Old Man is a wizard, simply because of his beard. The rest of him is relatively ordinary, except for his humorous, shuffling walk, in which he brusquely scoots alternating feet forward a few centimeters at a time. Despite his odd locomotion, he can move fairly quickly.

The Old Man almost always carries a take-away cup of coffee. His shoes look dusty and worn, but the rest of him seems clean. But I also know he has the most overwhelming musty odor.

Sometimes when I'm too hungry to wait for dinner, I will buy one of the day's left over muffins from the coffee shop next to the Woolworth's underground entrance. They are always cheaper in the evening because the shop will only sell fresh muffins baked that day. On one particular evening, I was buying my muffin-- it might have been either banana or blueberry-- and out of the corner of my eye I saw the Old Man approach. He came right up next to me as if he might plow me down with his shuffling walk. I stepped aside to give him room at the counter and apologized. His aroma was startling, but I didn't mind. It wouldn't do to offend someone who could be a closet wizard. I think he bought a muffin too, but I couldn't wait to see what kind it was. I had a train to catch.