Welcome to the night

Originally published October 10, 2001, Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier

The first cold wind of autumn rushes along the sidewalks of Main Street, and it carries with it the bitter sting of loneliness. But no one is there to notice.

It is 2:05 a.m., and save for the few scraps of litter fluttering along the curbside, the street is virtually empty.

There is just me and the sound of a westbound car on Alfred Street.

Most of the mill workers are at home. The taverns are dark and their stools have been placed upon the tables so that the floors and carpets can be swept or vacuumed. Somewhere, I know, people are working while the rest of the city sleeps.

A police cruiser turns from Lincoln Street, moving west on Main toward Elm Street. Two taxi drivers are sitting in their cabs, parked on Stone Street. Apparently, no one needs a ride at this hour. So, the drivers pass the time smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

An old, disheveled man is standing outside the front door at Dunkin’ Donuts. He watches me walk past while the traffic signal flashes red to a street nearly void of activity.

Somewhere, from beneath my sub conscience perhaps, the lyrics of a Dire Straits song echo in my head: “. . .all the late-night bargains have been struck . . .prehistoric garbage trucks got the city all to themselves . . .”

 The only thing missing, it seems, is the lonely and comforting wail of an alto saxophone.

This is “Biddeford After Dark,” a five-part series that will appear on these pages in the coming weeks. It will be a deeper, and perhaps more introspective, look at the stark differences that take place in this city only after the sun has long-since retreated to other parts of the world.

Numerous studies have been done in which scientists and others study a patient’s sleeping habits in order to determine how other aspects of that patient’s life are affected by his or her sleep patterns. In this case, the city is the patient, and we will examine some of its more unexplored parts so that we may be able to better understand how it operates and thrives during the light of day.

We will talk with police officers, third-shift convenience store clerks, social workers, night-club owners, wayward teens and truck drivers.

We will visit the emergency room, and we will watch as the sun rises while the flutter of daytime activity begins anew with each passing day.

In the meantime, sleep tight. We’re keeping an eye on the city, regardless of the hour.

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