Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Didi & Gogo Take a Ride 

You meet all kinds on Toronto's streetcars.

On a street car one Saturday, sitting behind me were a couple of real quality chaps. Their use of language was not sublime but limited, basic and coarse. I could smell their cheap, damp cigarette residue a mile away. 

One of them was clearly a native Torontonian as he called to his travelling companion:
“Phil! Phil! Phil…”

“Yeh, what?”

“That was my old school right there.”

“There’s nothing there.”

Phil was obviously the more observant of the two. He had pointed out several times that “there’s nobody there. What’s that bitch talkin’ bout? There ain’t nobody there.”

“I know, sh**head, it was my school. Gone now.”

“Probably gonna be a new condo or some other f**king bulls**.”


I learned two things about this man and his travelling companion. He grew up in Toronto, and now even in his late-50s he hasn’t ventured far. He, at some point got an education (a fact belied by his grammar). He is most likely Catholic. Though the school at some point was referred to as Regent Park/Duke of York was only recently purchased by the Catholic School Board for redevelopment as a new school, he used its “Saint something-or-other” as its designation, a practice I only know to have been done by Catholic schools. Protestant schools were far more likely to name a school after an alcoholic or racist white guy. In any event, it is currently an empty site. I remember when the school was demolished and how the dust was constantly in the air while the machines did their work. More telling was the smell of mould, like musty, mildewy books most likely left to be churned up and crushed along with the brick and cement. 

But back to Didi and Gogo (I’m not sure why I called them that? They were like the two hobos of Waiting for Godot but I’ve long forgotten Beckett’s character names). Why was I being such a petty jerk in my assessment of them? Classic classism I guess. In all honesty I thought to myself, “Why am I so annoyed by these two troglodytes and why do I think they are troglodytes? What is a troglodyte?” Well, firstly, they didn’t sit together but instead, separately took up two seats each (I believe the term is “Man-spreading”), and sat with an additional row between them all while carrying on a conversation by basically yelling to each other. I mean if you want to talk then sit closer together. Everything about them, especially the way they spoke, full of cursing (particularly cursing about other people they spoke of) and just their overall – what? Aura? Body language? Whatever it was, it is exactly the same tiny clues that they would pick up from me to assume I was some hipster douchebag (designery eye-glasses, jaunty scarf, tapered jeans, thoughtfully unshaven, scowling while scrolling through my iPhone or countless other unsaid characteristics I’m unaware of). 

This topic fascinates me. How quickly we pile up tiny indicators to put people in box. I do it so often I’m genuinely surprised when someone I’ve quantified turns out to be very different. I remind myself not to “judge a book by its cover” even if a lot of books are easily and correctly judged by the design of the jacket photo or illustration. Still there are a lot of books in this world with easily judged covers and even more people who by the tilt of their head, their manner of dress and speech are probably exactly the kind of person you think they are. 

This still doesn’t explain why I was so annoyed by their unlimited and entirely meaningless conversation. Its volume? Loud and annoying. Its content? Dull and pointless. Their rudeness, loudness and assumed appropriation of the space was driving me nuts. Why should I care? Why should everyone else apply societal norms but these two can flout them? It was almost as though their complete lack of agency in every other part of their lives entitled them to exert themselves as much as possible in this public realm. And here I thought I was the entitled one? In truth, I am pretty lucky. Born in the right place at the right time - the proverbial third base so I guess I can let these guys have their moment of empowerment, after all, while I can steal a base at a leisurely stroll, they might never make it home.



Post a Comment

<< Home