This isn’t the first time I’ve ridden the tramcar alone. Somehow I manage to do it every summer, and every summer I don’t particularly mind it, being the observer that I am. Although usually not this creepy, I like to sit and take in everything around me—scenery, people, conversations.
I especially didn’t mind it today. I was happy just to catch a ride from one end of the boardwalk to the other, my mind on other more important things—like getting home—and water. I sat at the back of the car in the second to last row. It wasn’t crowded, surprisingly. Maybe because it was too hot, the sun beating down on my face and on a few couples sitting in front of me.
I heard the rattling of the rollercoaster fall from the peak of the Great White and realized the car had come to a stop out front of the pier, waiting for people to get on and take seats. Three boys around twelve years old took the row in front of me. They each carried their own skateboards. Their backward Volcom hats covered their long shaggy hair. The boy in the middle, the one with blonde hair and who I thought looked the youngest, took off his hat and pushed his hair back out of his eyes.
“Dude, I can’t believe you just did that,” he said to the boy on his left.
“Why not, dude?” the other boy said. “I’m a pimp.” He reached his left hand over his red shirt and began to brush off his right shoulder.
“You know how Kev works, man,” the boy on the right finally chimed in. “Kev’s a smooth brotha.”
They all laughed.
“Let’s see if he can actually seal the deal, though,” said the one in the middle. “What’s your next move gonna be, big man?”
“I’m not tellin’ you fools,” Kevin said.
“That’s ‘cause you don’t got no moves,” said the one on the right.
They all laughed again.
“Yeah right,” he said. “I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna take her into the Ghost Ship ride, and then when she gets scared and grabs onto me, I’m gonna lean in, and I’m gonna kiss her.”
The two boys looked at Kevin and burst into fits of laughter now, not even noticing that I, myself, was laughing alongside them now too.
“We’ll see how it goes for you, my man,” the middle boy said as he patted Kevin’s back and got off the car on the right side in front of the next pier.
One more pier to go, I thought to myself as I watched the boys walk off and noticed a couple arguing frantically walk on a few rows ahead. The father got on first, followed by the mother and a little boy who looked about eight.
“You sit right here, Richie, and don’t you move a muscle,” the Mom said scoldingly.
“Don’t be mad at him, Sheryl. He didn’t know any better,” the Dad said.
“Well he should know better,” the Mom said. “He almost gave me a heart attack. I had no idea where to find him, or where to even look.”
“I told you he was going to wait in line at the bumper cars.”
“When?” Sheryl said. “Did you mumble it as you went to go stand in line at the concession stand for over a half hour for a soda?”
They were yelling now, and with each sentence their voices went up a few pitches, while the little boy sat in silence, staring into space.
“The soda I was getting for you, Sheryl,” the Dad said. “Besides, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
“I saw him talking to that little girl,” the Mom said.
“And there’s something wrong with that?” The Dad tried to make a joke.
“You know,” Sheryl said, “sometimes I don’t know which one of you is the bigger kid I’m taking care of, Jack.”
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” Jack said. “You know I’m not trying to argue. I was just trying to make a joke. What if that was his future wife he was waiting to push around in the bumper cars? That is how we met, after all.”
Jack and Sheryl stopped fighting. Sheryl smiled and leaned her head on Jack’s shoulder as Jack put his arm around her. Richie smiled too.
“Watch the tramcar please,” sounded over the tramcar loudspeaker, and we were stopped in front of Morey’s Pier. I heard the worker behind me step down off the back of the car and walk over to the older couple to my left, grabbing the lady’s hand and helping her sit down in the row two up from me. Her husband followed. They had to be in their eighties. When the tramcar started up again, the wife turned to her left and looked at her husband.
“That funnel cake was good, huh?” she said.
“What?” the man said.
“I said, that funnel cake was good, huh?” the lady repeated.
“Yes, I want to go to a clam bake,” the man answered.
“Damnit, Charlie,” the wife said. “I told you to wear your hearing aid today. You can’t hear a damn thing I say to you.”
“What?” the man said. He looked at his wife as she turned away and went on a rant. Then he looked at me. For the first time today, someone noticed that I was listening. And above that, he spoke to me.
“You know, sometimes I forget to wear it on purpose so I don’t have to listen to what she says,” he said to me laughing.
I couldn’t help but laugh, too.
His wife stopped mid-sentence and looked back at me. “You know,” she said, “I’ve been putting up with Charlie for sixty years? Sixty years.”
“Sixty years is a long time,” I said smiling.
“Sixty years IS a long time,” Charlie said. “But it doesn’t seem like it if you’re happy.” He grabbed his wife’s hand.
“I hear ya,” I said.
“And do you know we met here, in Wildwood, on summer vacation?” he said.
“Get out, really?”
“At the Starlight Ballroom that used to be on this boardwalk,” his wife said smiling.
“Yup, this boardwalk brings back a lot of memories,” Charlie said. “And we come back every summer since we met.”
“That’s an awesome story,” I said back.
“Do you have a boyfriend, young lady?” Charlie asked me.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to answer. But you never know, maybe your future husband is up here somewhere, and you don’t even know it.”
I laughed. “You guys enjoy the rest of your day,” I said.
Charlie winked and turned around.
Coincidence that all three conversations I overheard while riding the tramcar involved finding someone on the boardwalk? I should hope so, I decided on the remainder of my ride to the end of the ramp. Never know, maybe I’m meant to meet my future husband on the Wildwood Boardwalk, like so many others before me. Or maybe I should learn to stop being creepy and listening into people’s conversations.