November 12, 2010
“BE CAREFUL!” yelled an irate driver through his open passenger window, rolled down, I assume, for the express purpose of berating my curb-mate. The unlucky fellow had stepped into the crosswalk prematurely, trying to beat the light, and had nearly been mowed down at 7:50am on a Friday – what a way to start the weekend!
But the driver who balled him out was three cars behind the action. He had no reason to get involved, and I felt for the poor victim. Calgary drivers aren’t so careful themselves, and I’ve reamed out more than a few while hiking this concrete jungle. But while it’s easy to slink away unknown in your glassed-in Cavalier, it’s much harder to keep your head up when you have to walk down the street step-in-step with the witness to your humiliation.
He was a small man, with scuffed shoes and a shabby, beat-up briefcase. His shoulders slumped down further after the attack. He hung his head as we crossed the street together. My heart went out to him and I tried to think of something to say to ease his embarrassment. But, really, what can you say?
So instead, I did something. I gave him a knowing half-smile, then made a jaywalker’s mad dash across all four lanes of 7th Avenue.
There are many ways to let a man know that he is not alone.
May 17, 2010
“Is this a stop?” I called out politely after an unsuccessful battle with the bus’ back doors. No one answered. I was sure I’d seen my bus # on the sign right outside the window – and the bus had bloody well stopped, hadn’t it!?
Maybe I was just asking too much from a Monday… for one (just one) of my fellow ‘civilized’ public transit customers to come forward with a word of help for one of their own. I know this is the start of the week; and I know Mondays come with their own set of rules, but…
As the bus pulled away from the curb, a man, two shoulders down, finally spoke. “Looks like you missed your stop,” he said.
Be proud of me, dear readers… I let him live.
But just like Calgary’s weather, its people are prone to Chinooks. My faith in humanity was restored five city blocks later when a woman opened a door for me, then held it for that extra glorious ½ second that takes a gesture straight from courtesy to comfort.
Yes, all was peaches and cream until I came face to face with The Sun’s Front Page. Why, Calgary, why? Can’t a girl make it to her desk without being forced to stare into the soul-dead eyes of a man tortured, beaten, and starved almost to death by his trusted roommate? Or should I simply appreciate the fact that his abuser – with a generosity similar to my own – ‘let him live’?
April 23, 2010
Yesterday's blazer experiment
How do you engage with the world? Our clothing plays a major role in communicating the nature of our engagement with both society and ourselves. Generally, those who dress ‘fashionably’ have the most to gain from being perceived as ‘plugged in’ to their culture (ie: Vogue interns), while ‘style’ is more an expression of a person’s confident engagement with self (Vogue’s Grace Coddington). It’s no coincidence that the most successful people (according to our culture’s standards) exhibit a combination of both (ie: Michelle Obama).
Yesterday’s outfit was a preliminary experiment in engagement. Which is to say, I wore a blazer around downtown Calgary. Sure, I still had on my jeans and Nike baseball cap, but by replacing my hoodie with a fitted brown velvet blazer, the look was entirely transformed. Not only did I immediately become more conscious of my posture in the structured jacket, but there was also a marked increase in public attention (from both men and women). I felt suddenly more conspicuous, and at the same time, somehow more involved with my streetmates. It was as if they wanted to recognize me as one of their business-class clan, which, of course, would open the door to my being judged by their standards. It was an odd feeling, and I’m not sure yet if I’m open to living it daily. I’ve always relished my role as an observer, especially being a writer, but there’s a power in setting yourself up as an equal – a power that must be explored…
Need to catch up on this Saving Cymbria blog serial?
April 22, 2010
Scene One: He was sitting a few rows ahead of me, legs splayed, owning his corner of the bus seat with the unchallenged authority of a business suit among jeans. The man fairly oozed masculine pride. His newspaper was spread as wide as his knees on the packed rush-hour bus. He turned the page, and I watched him try to shake a kink out of the main article. But in such a tight space, he only worsened the puckering.
Then it happened… Right in front of everyone, the man abandoned all pride (masculine or otherwise), ducked down his head, and poked out the kink with the tip of his nose. What can I say? My day was made~
Scene Two: The jam-packed bus pulled away from the curb. I grabbed hold of the only support within reach, a dangling, flimsy rubber hand-loop. As the blocks lurched by, I did my best to stay vertical. Putting the ol’ brain to work, I improved my stability by twisting/tangling my wrist up into the strap to limit slack, thereby reducing the egregious strains on my musculature. In theory, quite logical. In practice? Nothing like starting the day off hanging like some half-frozen pig carcass in an overloaded butcher’s trailer, swaying gently back and forth…
All well and good till you have to untangle yourself. “Excuse me,” I called out at my stop. The crowd pushed back to let me pass. Or rather, they pushed back to clear a stage for me to completely mortify myself! It took a full five agonizing seconds for me to extricate my arm. Go ahead, count five Mississippis. It’s a loooooong time. And you can bet it’s an infinity to any poor girl caught in an inadvertent S&M scene before breakfast! What can I say? Their day was made~
March 25, 2010
Card's inside caption reads: ...And Live The Dream!
It’s every writer’s dream… a free-wheeling roadtrip across Canada with nothing but your wits and words to get you from A to B to N (Alberta to B.C. to Newfoundland). As I type this, Patricia O’Neill – one of Calgary’s best storytellers – is busy whittling down her life to fit in the back of a car. She’ll be blogging her way across the country (web address coming soon!) as she winds her way through the stories, people, and places along the road. It is rare in this life to be offered a chance at true freedom, and there are too few people brave enough to grab hold of the opportunity. We’re proud of you Patricia! Go forth woman… and live the dream!
Update: You can follow Patricia’s incredible journey on her blog – Moving in the Write Direction
March 4, 2010
So I went through…
7.2 minutes later: There I am, inching along a narrow mud-slicked ledge, fenced suburbia to my right, a perilous 20′ icy-cliff drop on my left – with only a paved off-ramp to catch me! One slip and I’m rush-hour roadkill. Clinging to the sparest of twigs, I creep forward, only one thought in my mind…
“This is so cool!”
There’s something ridiculously wonderful about getting lost in your own city, especially on your most familiar route. When was the last time you allowed yourself to explore? It’s spring isn’t it? What better time to dive sneaker-first down a rabbit hole?