I was running late that day, after forgetting my work keys, then my phone, then my wallet. Each time I remembered I was already out the door. Each time, another ride up the elevator, another unlocking of the door.

I depend so much on things that are so tiny.

I was fifteen minutes late, way past my usual five minutes late. A final check determined that I didn’t have a handkerchief, but I could live without one for that day. I probably had one at work.

I made the left turn into the alley running parallel to Nebraska Avenue. Beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. It wasn’t hot, but it certainly wasn’t cold either. I was regretting the handkerchief decision from earlier.

The two older gentlemen must have been in their late fifties, early sixties. They walked alongside each other and although I wasn’t actively eavesdropping, I couldn’t help but overhear. The shorter one was talking about the garden and what they had to do for the coming winter.

I knew which garden they were talking about. I saw them exiting one of the houses I pass on my commute. The house has model railroad track that completes a circuit around the back yard. One end loops around a small garden.

I briefly considered passing them, but their walking pace was brisk, and we arrived at Nebraska Avenue at the same time.

We had just missed the light. As the light turned green, the cars moved forward twenty feet. They were parked so close I could have crossed the street and never touched asphalt. There was a brief pause.

Then the horns erupted.

I looked at the blocked intersection, grimacing as the horn blowing grew more and more frequent. I adjusted my bag. All the little things add up into a larger, more burdensome whole.

The taller one turned to his partner, his voice raised so that he could hear him over the swelling cacaphony. “I swear, we’re becoming the most uncivilized country in the world!”

Standing next to them, I yelled, “Becoming?!”

The three of us laughed.

The shorter one yelled back, “Well, I was around when we were civilized!”

I chuckled. “It must have been nice! I’m sorry I never saw it!”

Crossing against the light, drowning in a sea of cars, I knew we were fighting a losing battle.

Initially, the last sentence was going to be, “Crossing against the light, drowning in a sea of cars, I knew that I would have to kill every last one of them to make this place right.” But I don’t think it went along with the rest of the piece.