I remember it like it was yesterday, though it's been a few years now.
I was just idly passing some time, as I often did, looking at the beautiful old houses and manicured lawns of one of the city's most affluent areas. Just a couple blocks away the latest in a row of hotels was in the final stages of construction but, that day at least, the noise and traffic from the work site was absent—a respite which must have been as welcome to area residents as it was to me, not to mention the guests at the formal function taking place that afternoon at one of the older hotels.
While I'm out, I like to people-watch; that day was no different. Sometimes I like to pick out interesting people and make up stories in my head about who they are and what they're doing, so I was on the lookout for people who might play well into my little mind-game. And before long I spied a dapper looking clean-shaven fellow in coat-tails and top hat, strolling along the street toward the corner. In my mind, the genteel fellow was an aristocrat, an oil baron's heir perhaps, heading to the formal event as its guest of honor, where his darling wife-to-be awaited to hang on his arm all evening. I kept an eye on Top Hat as he turned the corner heading toward the hotel—where his paramour would be watching through her slender brass telescoping spyglass for the first sign of her love, ready to stroll out elegantly to meet him ...
A sudden distant screeching of brakes startled me from my imaginings. From far up the street behind me came the roar of an engine and another harsh squeal of brakes as a car came to a sudden stop directly in front of the Municipal Utilities Authority building. The driver, an agitated looking young man with what looked like permanent stubble to go with his permanent scowl, ran into the office without even cutting off the engine, paperwork clutched in one hand. In what seemed an impossibly short time for any errand, let alone dealing with public works bureaucracy, the agitated man burst forth from the office and dashed back to his waiting vehicle, then raced off down the street past me at what had to be double the speed limit. I shook my head, hoping he would slow down before he got himself into trouble with the police.
With quiet restored, I started walking down the street toward the corner the car had just raced around, while putting together an elaborate story about its leadfoot driver. He became the younger of two brothers, orphaned years ago by a tragic plane crash. Growing up in foster homes, the brothers had struggled to find their place in the world, but now the older brother was a wealthy investor with a golden touch and a golden heart, who gave generously to charities of all kinds but had a particular affinity for those who helped children who'd lost their parents. Just that morning he'd heard that one of the oldest orphanages in the city had fallen on hard times and was about to have its utilities shut off; he'd told his younger brother to go pay those bills pronto, and the race to beat the 5pm deadline was on! Water bill now paid, he was off to pay the other bill to keep the little orphans' lights on!
I was wrestling with what the brothers' names should be when a broad shouldered man, probably in his late 30s, trundled past me on the far side of the street, whistling off-key as he briskly pushed a wheelbarrow full of topsoil ahead of him. He seemed to be heading toward the vacant lot on the corner—an odd destination, to be sure. I paused in front of a bed and breakfast ("Proudly Putting Up Patrons and their Pets since 1935") to watch what Mr. Wheelbarrow was up to and, as I stooped to pet the friendly Scottish terrier whose person had just walked up, I nearly missed the sudden flurry of activity across the street:
For no sooner had the wheelbarrow left the sidewalk and passed through the scraggly bushes surrounding the empty corner lot than those bushes seemed to come to life, as uniformed officers sprang forth and seized the man! Before it was even clear what was happening, a police van had pulled up to the curb and with a brusque "You're under arrest.... take 'im downtown, Joe!" from one of the officers, the man—wheelbarrow and all—had been herded into the van and whisked off!
I was so taken aback by this turn of events that I didn't even think to dream up a backstory for the poor fellow. Instead I checked my watch, and decided I'd check the police blotter in the morning to see who'd been arrested at... 4:09pm today... and why. ...Oh! 4:09! I'd best not dally if I wanted to catch my usual train! I gave the friendly dog a final pat and stood, just in time to see him suddenly first tense, then bolt for the back of the house. A few moments later came a frenzy of barking, followed abruptly by a blur of fur as a startled young cat came sprinting out of the yard, scurried past me, and vanished from sight around the corner.
It was time I did likewise. At a much more leisurely pace, I walked down to the corner and turned right. I skirted around the hotel construction site—it's amazing how fast these buildings can go up these days!—then past the older hotel on the next block. I walked by the run-down Community Center (rumor was the developers were itching to tear it down and put up another hotel there, but the city wouldn't allow it). And beyond that, I passed the stately old hotel where even now I imagined the oil heir was waltzing with his fair lady ...
Finally I reached the train station, with just a minute or two to spare, and boarded my train for the short trip home. And on the way home I mulled over all the things I'd seen while passing time in the city on that strangely memorable day.
Where was I when the story began? (Name the place, and the U.S. city the place is in)
What's the earliest year this day could have been in?