Ahhhh. Done with work at last. Time to walk to the Metro.

La-di-da-di-da.

I hope I get a seat. I bet I get a seat. It's late enough. Shouldn't be too crowded.

Yeah, that's what I'll do. Settle into a seat. Read the new New Yorker. Finish that really good article.

La-di-da-di-da. Down the elevator, out the door, onto the sidewalk.

La-di-da-di-da.

Uh-oh.

Who's that up ahead? Is that what's-his-name? That guy? That guy who works in that place?

I know him, don't I? I know him.

What. Is. His. Name.

It might not be him. I don't think he walks that way.

But it might be him. Yeah, it might be him. That looks like his hair. What would somebody else be doing with his hair?

Darn! It is him. I'm sure of it.

I just want to sit by myself and read my magazine. I just want to be in my own private bubble. But if I run into him, I'll have to indulge in small talk: "Hey! Fancy meeting you here. Blah blah blah. How are things? Blah blah blah." My private bubble, ruined.

He hasn't seen me. He's about 20 feet ahead, and he hasn't seen me. This might work out.

I must walk slowly. Must walk verrrrry slooooowwwwwllly. Don't want to draw even with him or overtake him. I must stay directly behind him, lest he spot me in his peripheral vision. Stay behind him, like a Mustang on the tail of a Messerschmitt.

Man, he walks slow. Or I walk fast. I'm closing on him. What to do? What to do?

Ah, the light ahead is turning red. I could rush past, grunt a nondescript greeting and leave him on the curb when he obeys the Do Not Walk light. Then I'd have a good 30 feet on him, and I could beat him to the Metro. My private bubble would be safe.

But what if he tries to beat the light, too? Then we'd be abreast of one another with a whole block to go till the Metro. He'd see me for sure.

I'm done for.

Wait! He's sprinting across the street. He's beating the light. I can just cool my jets here, let him take the lead. There he goes. Adios, not-quite-amigo! I'll just wait here for the light to change while you amble to the Metro.

What's this? He's stopping. Why's he stopping? He's bending down to tie his shoelace. His shoelace! Can't he just limp to the Metro with an untied shoe?

What do I do? What do I do? My light's about to turn green. I'm going to come upon him for sure. I could hang a sharp left and cross to the other side of the street right now. But he might see me. He'd know I was trying to avoid him. That would look darn cold. What kind of twisted sicko would do that, cross the street to avoid running into a guy from work that he sort of knows?

There's the walk light. I'm going forward. He's finished tying his lace. He's moving on. But we're too close. Too close. I'm going to run into him for sure. What will I do when I get to the other side? I can't just stand on the sidewalk like a statue and let him build his lead.

Or can I?

I'm going to tie my shoe. There's no law against it. It's a free country. A man can tie his shoe, can't he?

La-di-da-di-da. Just crossing the street and then stopping to tie my shoe. I better tie the other shoe too, just to be safe.

There he goes. That's it. That's it. Keep on going, fella.

Wait for it, John. Be patient. No need to jump up and start walking too soon.

He's practically at the Metro entrance. And . . . now! I can go.

Hee-hee. He's well in front of me. Could even be getting on a train by now.

I can't wait to read my magazine. Find a seat and read my magazine. That's my idea of heaven. Yep. Just me and . . .

You've got to be kidding me! He's buying a Farecard! There he is buying a #$@*! Farecard. And I'm already down the escalator.

I'm sunk. Unless . . .

I'm making a run for it. His back is turned, and I'm running to the turnstile. Well, not running, but walking with purpose. If I can get on the platform and hide behind a pylon, I'll be safe. Or maybe a train will come and I can jump on, leaving him behind. Then I can sit and read my magazine.

I'm through the turnstile. C'mon, train. Come on.

Yes! I see the lights in the tunnel.

Oh geez, there he is. Has he seen me? I don't know. The train is stopping, the doors are opening, I've got to get on.

I'm on! I'll move to the front of the car and take that totally empty seat up there.

Stand clear, doors closing. Ahhhh. I think I'm safe. Private bubble, here I come.

No! The doors are opening again. They're opening again.

He jumped on. I see him. He jumped on. And now he's looking for a seat!

He's walking toward me. He's getting closer. Closer. He sees the empty seat next to me. It's the only empty seat on this car. I'm sunk.

Who is that guy anyway?

Here he is. Put magazine away. Turn to him. Smile.

"Hey . . . you. What's up?"

"Hey there. Tom, isn't it?"

"John."

"Right. Say, John, I hope you don't mind. I'm reading a novel, and I'm at a really good part. I'm going to be rude and just bury my head in it if that's all right."

"Mind? No. That's fine. Enjoy."

Can you believe this guy? How rude is that?

I'm at kellyj@washpost.com.