Saturday, November 25, 2006


It's funny how much easier it is to meet strangers when you're traveling.
In a foreign culture, you're so lost that you' ll connect with anything vaguely familiar--such as another English-speaker. Back home though, it's easy to settle down into a daily pattern. Things stop being new and exciting, you have neither need nor will to share your enthusiasm with your neighbor.

Recently, however, I've been meeting a lot of strange people. It all started last Monday, with Sherry.
Here I was, studying in a coffee shop, like the good student I am. I wasn't what you'd call particularly abordable: totting headphones, I had papers spread all over my table and was frowning down at them with an air of mild disgust. All of a sudden, a whirl of activity and colour bursts into the coffee shop and speeds straight towards me.
Confused, I look up to see a woman wrapped in countless layers of coats and scarfs, clutching an enormous gold bag with sequins and ribbons sewn on haphazardly. Despite the pouring rain, her hair looked windblown, and she peered down at me through green and orange peace-sign-shaped hologram glasses.
"Can I sit here?" She asked.
"...Uh... sure..." I replied, unsure of what else to do. But she had already settled herself comfortably by the time I replied.
Fascinated, I shuffled some papers out of the way and glanced surreptitiously in her direction. She sighed, popped her red coat open (revealing more layers beneath), and glanced outside. Colourful pins were stuck all about her: On her bag, on her coats... Beneath her toque and hair, she was wearing old battered headphones.
"Oh, you're looking at the pins." She said.
"Er, yes, they're very pretty."
"You like them? I made them. I'm an artiste." She deftly unbuttoned one and handed it to me. It consisted of swirls of colourful paint mixed with sparkles. As I was admiring it, she leaned forward and whispered:
"Ten dollars." I looked horrified, and put the pin down onto the table.
"Well, it's pretty, but I really don't think I can justify..."
"Ok five dollars, then." I smiled, embarrassed, and shook my head. She sighed.
"I'm sorry, it's just ...difficult, you know, being a student..."
"Yeah, well it's difficult to be an artist too," she quipped. She turned back to the window.
"I'm waiting for someone," she explained, "that's why I'm here."
I nodded, vainly attempting to read my papers. Time passed. She started to fidget. Finally giving up on my papers, I set them aside and asked her what she was listening to.
She proceeded to cheerfully explain that she was a musician (a woman of many talents!), pulled out a handful of CDs and two battered harmonicas. Then, she ripped her headphones off and snapped them over my own.
"This is my newer stuff," she told me. It consisted of vague guitar strumming and lyrical poetry about war.
"Ah." I said.
"Here," she was rooting around her CDs now, "this stuff, now this stuff is more vintage."
She began to explain to me how she played music with her brother and was waiting for someone to come talk to her about a show. At that very moment, a black sports cars screeched to a halt right outside the coffee shop. Her head snapped up.
"Oh! I have to go!" Quickly, she packed up her scarves, pins, harmonicas, wrapped her coats around her, grabbed her headphones and ran out of the store. I stared, transfixed, as she ran up to the car and knocked on a window. A door opened, and she hurried inside. Then, she turned to me and started waving energetically as the car sped away.

It honestly took me a good ten minutes to recover from that five minutes of conversation.
I must have changed somehow, because since then, three total strangers have asked to sit at my table in coffee shops. None, unfortunately, were nearly as entertaining as Sherry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a conspiracy :). That or the new Bond hype in the air :)

12:14 p.m.  
Blogger fred said...

Hey! I found your blog from your Facebook account. See if you can find mine! ;-)


4:27 p.m.  

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