The bus driver, Mike, just called him Passenger Joe.
Mike drove the Outbound Metro C route. He drove from 6:00 AM until 10:00 AM. He was off until 2:00 PM and finished around 6:00 PM. And Passenger Joe was the first passenger on in the morning and the last to get off at night.
Mike used his imagination for each passenger who became regulars. If he didn’t know them by name, he gave them a name, a background, a home, and a job. It was his way of humanizing what was otherwise nothing more than moving bodies from one location to another. However, Joe remained intriguingly nondescript in Mike’s mind; nothing stood out by which Mike could build an imaginary persona.
Passenger Joe appeared older than Mike by 20 or 25 years. He always wore dress slacks and white shirt. Of course, he bundled for the winter, but underneath it was always the same. He wore a gray fedora and beneath it, thinning hair.
Mike watched him through the mirror. He spoke to no one, however, always gave his seat to a lady. He mostly looked out the window.
Mike greeted him in the morning and Passenger Joe would reply civilly and quickly make his way to near the rear of the bus. It seemed to Mike it was an indication of not wanting any other conversation. “I’m a buss driver, not a therapists,” Mike thought.
To Mike he became the average Joe or Passenger Joe.
Twelve years passed and the mystery of Passenger Joe only intensified. Mike took a day off. He followed his bus with the substitute driver to the first stop. Passenger Joe got on. Mike followed to the next stop, where Passenger Joe got off and retraced the route to the first stop.
Mike parked his car and followed Passenger Joe at a comfortable distance. Joe entered a modest brick apartment building and disappeared behind its doors.
“There must be at least 60 apartments in that building,” Mike thought and walked back toward his car.
“I’m starting to feel creepy,” Mike thought climbing into his car, “I’m stalking my passengers.” Yet there seemed to be this irresistible urge to discover the man’s identity and put to rest the curiosity surrounding Passenger Joe.
Now For the Unusual Daily Prompt Challenge
This will continue tomorrow, employing the word used for that day’s Daily Prompt. If it’s “rutabagas,” I’m sunk.