Rob quickly set the reception phone to voice mail, grabbed his bag
and ran for the elevator. He was already ten minutes late.
He ran into the Stop and Shop bathroom to change. He threw on his
ragged pants that reeked of rotten food, and a very small, crusty, Ron Jon's
Surf Shop T-shirt with the sleeves torn off. He grabbed his harmonica and
ran the 4 blocks to Logan Square park. He only had an hour for lunch, and
she would be there soon. He sat on the sidewalk, with a open plastic bag
filled with coins, and began to play. Eventually he saw her walking down the
Rob had watched her for weeks now. She consistently walked the same
route for her lunch break; she was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous, and
she always gave money to street performing bums. Rob had a good feeling
that this would be his day. According to his friends this was the most
elaborate way to get a girl they had ever seen. "But just crazy enough to
work?" he would ask them. "No," they'd respond, "just crazy."
As she approached, Rob played like he had never played before.
Actually, he had rarely played before. He began practicing the harp for real
just to woo this angel of a woman. He had seen her wearing a Beck T-shirt,
so as she approached he started bellowing out "Pay No Mind," the only Beck
song he could transcribe and make it sound right.
She was literally feet in front of Rob. His heart pounded. She
stopped to listen. She was enjoying the music. She even smiled. A smile
that made the sky bright and the flowers bloom. As he played he looked up
into her face. What he saw, and what he was experiencing, was pure joy. She
was perfect. He finished the song and she threw fifty cents into his
"Thanks," he said.
"That was great. I love Beck."
"Maybe I'll get to hear some more tomorrow." Before he could ask
her name, she was off. Rob was ecstatic he would see her again
tomorrow. However, for now, he had to hurry and change to get back to work
After work he went home to learn another song. He started off
practicing "Devils' Haircut," but it didn't have that same edge to it.
Anyway, that song was too popular. He wanted a special song that just the
two of them could share. He decided to pick a track off of Beck's new, more
underground, "Mutations" CD. She had to be a big fan.
The next day he ran the same lunch routine. The convenience store
guy gave him some really bizarre looks. Rob decided to buy something on his
He set up his plastic change bag, got out his harmonica and began
practicing. Just as he was about to give up, he saw her coming. He played
the song better than ever before it was like she inspired him. She
stopped and listened with that same smile. Rob just soaked her all in.
When he finished he didn't waste any time. She threw in the fifty cents and
he asked her, "What's your name?"
"Mine's Rob," he said, "nice to meet you."
"Same here. You know I really like to listen to you," said Laura.
"Thank you very much. That means a lot to me."
"It really brightens my day to hear you out here. It makes me
happy," she continued.
"That's what I'm out here for."
"Cool. Well I gotta get going. Nice meeting you."
"You too, Laura. See you tomorrow."
The next day, the same routine. There Laura came. She looked like
she was in a hurry, though. She walked past quickly, smiled, gave him a
little recognizing thumbs up and was on her way. He saw her, and she was
gone. His heart sank.
That was it. He had to quit his job. He had to become a full time
bum. That way he would find a way to see her three times a day at least,
instead of his now measly one.
So he quit and went to the Salvation Army to buy more bum clothes torn jeans and a couple of old 80's concert T's, REO Speedwagon and
Megadeth. He needed to look like a bum. He hoped to collect just enough
money to pay rent until he got the girl. He hadn't thought much past that
Rob set up his stuff in a few different locations hoping to discover
Laura's route to and from work. It didn't work. Rob was getting depressed.
One day, as he walked the streets aimlessly he saw an ice-cream man.
"Hey you," yelled the ice-cream man, "get the hell away from my
truck. I don't have any money for you, so get lost!"
"Oh, I'm not a bum man," Rob responded. "I'm just dressed like one
to get a girl."
"I SAID GET LOST BUMMY! Go back to your dumpster or wherever you're
"No, no really... Look, I have credit cards... and a video rental
card, and here, even a Starbuck's gift certificate. Plus there's my driver's
license, photo ID and all."
The ice-cream man paused and looked hard at the kid.
"I know it sounds dumb, but-"
The ice-cream man interrupted. "Kid, I did that same thing. Except
I dressed up like an ice-cream man."
"But you are an ice-cream man."
"Only been one officially since last week. But I've been driving
this here truck for two years now posing as an ice-cream man, selling
ice-cream, doing the whole thing."
"No man, it's cool. I got the girl. A pretty little lass, too. I
saw her every day walking in Logan Square here so I quit my job and changed
into this get-up to try and get close to her. By the time I won her, I had
become accustomed to this life. I enjoyed it. So, now I'm really an ice-
cream man. That girl changed my life."
"Tell me about it. Most people think I'm a jackass. Hell, maybe I
am a jackass, but who cares, right?"
"I don't know about that. I'll prove that it was all worth it for
me. Here she comes."
Of course, it was her. Rob had seen it coming miles away. Only one
girl could have driven men to do such crazy things. That girl was the
enchantress these men called Laura.
She approached them both.
"Hi there," she said to them. "Hey, I know you from the street, you
played those Beck songs."
"They were pretty good."
"Thanks." Rob gave the ice-cream man a look. Right away they both
knew that this was the woman Rob had become a bum for.
"You gonna get an ice-cream?" she asked.
"Uhh-" said Rob. He was trying so hard to be unshaken, to act
upbeat. Trying to hold back the fact that his whole life was melting away,
thanks to this ice-cream man.
The ice-cream man interrupted. "Sure. On the house. No problem."
He handed Rob a bomb pop and leaned in close, with a serious smile on his
face. "But that's all you're getting, got it?"
"Yeah, I got it." Meanwhile Laura had hopped into the ice cream
"Sorry pal, I know it hurts, but I've been an ice-cream man for two
years. How long you been a bum?"
"There ya go. Better luck next time. You'll find another girl on
the street. Good luck, kid." Rob stood there silently as the boyfriend
hopped into the driver's seat. "One more stop, honey. Lunch rush at the
And eventually that electronic ice-cream jingle faded away into the
distance, taking his beautiful seductress with it.
Rob never did find another Laura on the street. Instead he found
the street herself. Eventually he stopped envying people with jobs, and a
little while later, he even stopped loathing them.
Rob enjoyed his life as a bum. It was such a freeing experience.
It made him feel like a real part of the cosmic plan. He felt in touch with
his surroundings, and therefore more in touch with himself. He had become a
spiritual man, and the streets were his church. He lived life according to
his own plan and his own schedule. He made his money on the street and he
did OK. Sure, he didn't have all the stuff he was used to, but in exchange
he got so much more.
From the day he forgot his lunch and first saw Laura, to desiring a
bomb-pop from an ice-cream man, Rob's life had become a blissful ride. He
had since moved on to a couple different cities, just roaming, searching and
learning. He hadn't seen Laura or the ice-cream man since their last
fateful day together, but wherever he found himself, he always kept an eye
out for them. They deserved to be thanked, they deserved a return on the
love that they helped him to achieve. Plus Rob owed the ice-cream man one
anyway, for the free bomb-pop.