He was sitting at the bus shelter, not quite sure which bus to take, squinting at a timetable book in the growing dawn, a look of consternation on his face.
"Excuse me, which of these buses go downtown?"
"Depends, man. What part of downtown are you trying to get to?"
"10th and Commerce."
"The 48 or the 53 will do. They come at about the same time, about 5 minutes from now."
"Ah, okay, thanks." He put the book away in his pocket, looking at the institutionally provided bus pass which was shiny, new and clearly alien to him.
His face was lined, I could see in the dawn light which had finally made its way over Mount Rainier. Working class guy, nicotine stained fingers, a blue collar fella that liked to work hard and play even harder. Utilitarian clothes, but well looked after.
We stood in silence for some time. His face fell. He looked up at me, and had the same hopeful look that I had seen before: in the faces of the guys who "just needed a dollar to catch the bus to see their probation officer" or who wanted to know if you had time to buy their religious literature.
"Hey, uh, do you know where I could find any work?"
This was a new one on me. He didn't look homeless at all, and he wasn't. I'd seen him leaving a house on the other side of 38th. Whether he owned it or rented it, he had somewhere to live.
"No, I'm sorry, I don't."
"Anyone hiring? For anything?"
"What are you qualified to do?"
He shrugged. Looked me up and down - the Three Inches of Blood T-shirt, the biker jacket with the studs therein, the jeans, the worker boots.
"A lot of things. They hirin' where you're at?"
"Yeah", I said softly, realising it was gonna hurt. "If you've got seven years with J2EE and Agile methodologies, though."
"I'm a software engineer."
He looked downcast, then looked up. Then looked out. A long, hard stare at a world that had changed on him, changed way too much and way too soon. There was so much that was so new, and so alien.
Then the 48 hissed to a stop in front of him, and he walked onto the bus, not really sure where he was going.