Yesterday as I waited on a bench at Keele Station, an elderly gentleman in a fisherman’s hat and frayed plaid shirt sat beside me. He looked up into the daylight sky and pointed out the half moon. “Do you think it’s waxing or waning” he asked. Now to be honest, I had no clue… so I said, ‘with 100% certainty, it’s waxing”. He smiled and said ‘you’re right’. I’m not sure if he actually knew or he was just feeding off my confidence.
We talked about the Fall weather and how we both loved it. We talked about rush hour, and how we both hated it. He told me at his age he needed to pace himself if he was going to make it – no boozing, no late nights, activity spread out over the day. I told him that at his age, he might as well go all out, what did he have to lose? We were both frozen in silence for a second and then he threw his head back and laughed wholeheartedly.
In that moment our bus showed up. I walked towards the bus and he told me to have a great day. I curiously watched him walk back into the station and out through the turnstiles to the street.
I think he decided to take my advice.
I was feeling a little emotional today, worrying about my family as my grandfather is going in for heart surgery. I was on the subway and a Trinidadian gentleman in his 40’s was standing near me. He had very loose jeans that he had belted tightly at his rib cage, and a baseball cap. He was talking clearly about getting married. He said, “I am not going to invite George, George is a bully. I will invite Lorell, she’s nice. I need a marriage license”. I could see people were uncomfortable, looking away or trying to move away. A woman looked at me and shook her head and mouthed the words “i thought he was on the phone”. Normally I would have jumped in sooner but my distraction kept me quiet. Finally I met his gaze and said, “congratulations, marriage is exciting”. He looked down at me and we started talking. He asked me where he could get a marriage license, and if he should invite George. I said, “NO, George is a bully”! That made him excited and he said, “you know George??? he bullies me, what should I do”? I told him to tell George to leave him alone, and then to avoid him and not to invite him to the wedding. He then told me he was a police officer and had his car at 41 division. He said good bye and jumped out at Bay Station.
An older, portly gentleman moved to the seat near me and said “that was a beautiful interaction, he just needed to be acknowledged and validated”. I agreed and said we all do. Most of the people around me were smiling. At the next stop a woman was exiting and turned to me quickly and said, ‘you have a beautiful heart’, and then was gone. . She is right. I do have a beautiful heart. So does she for noticing that and acknowledging me. So does the gentleman who was moved by the experience, and the people who were smiling around me. We all have beautiful hearts. We are just scared. We are so afraid to look stupid, or to be judged by the people around us. When you are dealing with someone who has challenges, there is always a risk. Yes, this man connected to me and we talked. He just as easily could have screamed obscenities at me, and that could have been embarrassing.
We risk embarrassment. But at the end of the day, the possibility of connecting with other human beings and making them feel special outweighs that risk.
Yesterday I met a friend for lunch. She ran into the bank and I was waiting by the bus shelter for the King street car. I walked out into the street to see if it was coming and a caught the attention of woman nearby. She was a tiny Muslim woman maybe 5 feet tall with a grey head wrap and bright pink glasses. She had bright lipstick and a purple paisley jacket and she was beaming. She asked me if the streetcar was coming and I shook my head and smiled, ‘not as far as I can see’, and then I went into the shelter. She followed me in and started to tell me that she had forgotten her bus pass and she was stressed. I told her she should just enter from a back door as they won’t check but that she runs the risk if a fair inspector comes on. She then spent about 9 minutes telling me an elaborate story. She’s very forgetful. She owns a framing business and she often forgets her phone or her keys or her pass. The story got more and more animated, and finally she was laughing… like really laughing… and then tears were rolling down her face. I couldn’t make out the entire story but I just kept smiling and nodding. I was sitting, and she put her hand on my shoulder to steady herself as this story was apparently very hilarious and overwhelming. At that moment my friend came out of the bank and walked over to me. She looked at me incredulously and said, “wow, this stuff really does happen to you”. I think maybe she thought TTC tales were a figment of my imagination. Nope.
Finally the streetcar arrived and the little, cheerful woman walked right up to the driver, opened her purse and pulled out her pass?
Ya, I didn’t get it either:)
There is a woman who sits in a wheelchair at Bathurst and Bloor. She is missing her legs and fingers and teeth. She chants “change, change, change” frenetically. There is something about her that makes me feel uncomfortable… guilt? stress? anxiety? I’m not sure but I just know that I have avoided that corner so I am not confronted with those feelings. My mission is not so much to give change, but rather to treat people with dignity and acknowledge them. I’ve been frustrated by my ability to do so with her because of my own insecurities.
Yesterday I took a deep breath and walked over. I didn’t have much change… maybe 80 cents, and so I said… “sorry, I don’t have much” and handed it to her. She smiled broadly and said, “oh honey, that’s ok, trust me, it all adds up and thanks so much”. I was so taken aback. I wasn’t expecting her to be so… articulate, or positive. She usually stares up to the left and chants repetitively and I kind of thought she was out of it. I asked her how her day was and she said, ‘honey, I can’t complain, I’m alive and people are generous”. I smiled and told her I loved her attitude and then was on my way.
That’s been on my mind since then. So many people locked away in their own personal hell of poverty and homelessness and mental issues and addiction, but they are real people in there.
This morning I was on my way to the bus stop across from my house. There were three lanes of traffic stopped at the light. I cut through them, but when I got to the third lane, a car was coming. I stopped to let him pass, but he stopped and motioned for me to cross. I waved and crossed. A few seconds later I could see him shaking his finger at me. I was taken aback, and felt annoyed… I started to say something and he rolled down his window. I walked over and he smiled. He was a late 50’s Italian gentleman in a fancy SUV. “Please, come in” he said. So I jumped in. I told him I was going to the subway. He said in his strong Italian accent, “I like you smile, you a so sweet”. I couldn’t argue with that, so we chatted for a few minutes. All of a sudden I heard a beeping sound and I asked if my seat belt wasn’t on properly? He said “No… it let’s me know if I cross over the line… maybe I no concentrate and I cross it’. I said, ‘oh, yes, like maybe you are so distracted by a beautiful woman and you aren’t paying attention”. He threw his head back and laughed uproariously. Then he pinched my cheek and said “I like-a you so much”. Anyway I think we have a date tonight. If I just found my new man, I may never take the TTC again! Momma’s gonna ride in style!
Yesterday I was sitting across from an older gentleman with flyaway Einstein hair and a little beige windbreaker. A young, stylish 20 something girl sat beside him. She asked him politely to move his coat and I think he got excited that someone actually addressed him. He took this as a sign to initiate conversation. He said “what’s that”? She replied, ‘an iphone”. He went on to ask 20 questions… can she go on the internet with it? can she call someone when she’s on the ttc? can she play games? She was frustrated but she answered politely. Finally she curtly said, ‘I’m going to listen to music, good day”, and put her earphones in. She was reading her book and he was looking inquisitively over her shoulder. I was smiling through this whole thing… I don’t know why… because these things amuse me lol. Anyway, a few stops later, a seat became empty. The girl got up and moved. I watched the man’s eyes follow her, craning his neck to see her into her new seat. Then a sad look came over his face. Why did she have to move and make him feel so bad? So I pulled out my phone and said to him “I have an iphone too”! And voila, she was so old news!