Thursday 5 May 2011

Curious/Creepy: The tables turned!

Friends, on Tuesday I was the subject of a morning commuter’s curious/creepy! Not that he seems to have formalized the practice, as I have, but I was distinctly spied upon. Here’s what happened, long version:

I stayed up much too late Monday night watching as the results of Canada’s latest federal election came in. By 10:30 pm, it was clear that a 4-year right-wing nut job nightmare had begun in earnest but I couldn’t stop watching; there really is something to be said for that over-used train wreck metaphor. I roared in disbelief, I seethed, I wondered where I could sue for second citizenship, and all well into the wee hours. At 6 am, as usual, my alarm went off. I got up to get ready to go to the gym, but I had a headache, so I decided to get back into bed. After two minutes, I got up again and put on my gym clothes and went and worked out in pure rage and loathing for those who voted for the man with the dead, dead eyes.

So, I worked out in a rage, on approximately 4 hours of sleep. A short time later, I found myself commuting to work with a very downcast collection of commuting characters. I tried to console myself with some Chaz. Dickens but I literally could not keep my eyes open and I slept for a large segment of the trip. I hope I didn’t drool on myself or on anyone else, but I may never know either way. I woke up two stops before my transfer, as a fella in his 40s (50s?) sat down next to me. I sleepily noted three things: 1) While I had slept enough to dream a little, I hadn’t loosed my hold on my page marker in Martin Chuzzlewit; 2) The fella sitting down was trying to determine the title of the book I had in hand; 3) Said fella was also clutching a copy of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors. As I eyeballed his book, he eyeballed mine.

In Toronto, the normal conclusion to such an awkward interaction would be uncomfortable silence followed quickly by a mutually agreed upon decision to pretend as though we weren’t even aware of one another’s existence; or, if late on a Saturday night (especially on the Vomit Comet), a fistfight. But as I am clearly not from Toronto, and neither could he have been, we spontaneously launched into a very enjoyable but short conversation about our books. He asked me how I was enjoying Martin Chuzzlewit; I said I liked it very much, but thought my previous Dickens (The Old Curiosity Shop – of which, more anon! I finished it ages ago) was better in spite of the critical dissatisfaction with it; that there was something wrong with the pacing of Martin Chuzzlewit. He agreed with my feelings on both novels and indicated that before reading those two, he’d read Little Dorrit – and I said ME TOO and we discussed how annoying Little Amy’s family was.

We went on to agree that reading Shakespeare over again was very necessary. We also gushed about how our favourite Shakespearean plays were Measure for Measure and Troilius and Cressida; I added The Winter’s Tale to this venerable list and he concurred, AND told me that it might be on the bill for performance in High Park this summer…I may have squealed in delight at this piece of info. But then we both remembered that we’ve neither of us ever actually enjoyed CanStage productions of Shakespeare’s plays in High Park and were sad. And then, it was my stop.

Really, this sort of spontaneous friendliness never happens, especially not in Toronto. People here are generally very mistrustful of friendliness; they think the smile will be followed by a punch in the neck maybe. But I was pleased. And it reminded me that C/C was really born of one such friendly and unexpected interaction: many years ago now, on a train from Kingston to Toronto, the passenger next to me spied on my reading and we ended up talking about books for hours and HE introduced me to the love of my literary life, David Mitchell. So people, yes, we all love books better than we love reality, but sometimes reality is good too.


Heidenkind said...

A fellow literature enthusiast! How intriguing.

Now that I think about it, the only random conversations I've ever had with strangers have been over books.

Stefanie said...

This was excellent. Perhaps you will see him on the train again sometime.

Bookphilia said...

It's funny, but I've been having mini-conversations about books with lots of people lately...maybe it's because I look so happily engaged in my 19th century lit project. :)