Ned is an older gentleman, perhaps 70 or 75. He is lean, quick and lithe as he boards the bus, with no evidence of arthritic joints. He wears with a long full beard and dresses in expensive casual clothes. Now that the weather is warm he frequently wears a crisp long-sleeved button-down shirt, sleeves carefully folded up to mid forearm, under a high-quality trout fisherman's vest. Perhaps he has actually done some fly fishing in his day, but I don't think so. This vest, at least, seems to be more fashion statement than practical garment. I would guess he likes the outdoors, but perhaps more as a hiker or birdwatcher than as an active fisherman.
His trousers are carefully pressed khaki of a color that exactly matches his vest, and his footwear is clearly expensive, walking shoes of supple brown leather. Upon boarding the bus, he immediately switches to a pair of reading glasses, his hands very precise as he dons the reading glasses, tosses the lanyard over his head and carefully folds his other glasses and places them in his shirt pocket. His hands draw your attention; old hands but flexible and quick, without age spots or serious wrinkles. A man who has used his hands for finely detailed work; not muscular labor.
He immediately takes a book from his bag; it is a good quality illustrated book, and from my vantage point appears to be a book of color prints from modernistic art done in the 1930s or thereabout. There is precision about the way Ned turns the pages; his hands are elegant and careful, and I wonder if he might be a retired art director or graphic designer. The fact that his book carries the stamp of the public library supports the possibility that he's retired and on fixed income, as does the fact he's riding the public bus. His clothes and book bag are clearly quite expensive, though, and were perhaps purchased at a more affluent time in life.
Other days have supported my hunch about his artistic background; sometimes Ned pulls a sketch book from his bag and quietly sketches quick profiles of the passengers around him with a charcoal pencil to pass the time on the bus ride into downtown.
One morning I decided to stop a few blocks early in downtown to get coffee at a favorite shop, and realized that Ned is already in line ahead of me. He was obviously a regular (the fact that the shop owner greeted him familiarly is the reason I know Ned's name), and I began to get a mental picture of what Ned's days might be like. A leisurely start at the coffeeshop, followed by a stroll to the public library for a scholarly few hours, and then perhaps lunch with old colleagues at a former office or a walk along the shady Mississippi riverfront before taking the bus back home in the afternoon.
Much to envy there.