It was late. I had seen two movies and had decided to drop in to Future Shop to see what was up.
I started looking at printers, as mine was an inkjet that was continually out of ink. (Well, specifically, it kept drying up on me before I had a chance to use it). Didn’t see anything I liked so I wandered around the store a bit.
Finally talked myself into buying a big-ass 27″ monitor and a software package as well. Actually I had some help from the buzzing salesman whose greedy little eyes kept burning a hole in my ass, right where my wallet was.
Still, it wasn’t his fault. I own that shit. It was totally on me.
After they fashioned a handle for me (made of a plastic bag and about three yards of scotch tape), which they attached to the honking big box, I strained myself out of the store and down the escalator to the subway system, there to face about a forty-five minute ride home.
About three stops later, a tall very much overweight man waddled in, and plunked his track-panted ass down on a seat. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. You couldn’t help it – he was talking to himself, as so many Torontonian subway riders tend to do. I figure they’re just lonely in the big city, and since they don’t have anyone to go home to, they entertain themselves with what must pass for witty banter. Every so often I pray to God that I never get to that point. I mean, who knows? You don’t know what tiny screw has been loosening in your head all of these years, and when it might just come out completely.
The disturbing thing about this man was the look in his eyes. Like he was up to something mischievous, that only he and one other secret friend (himself) knew about. As the train screeched along the tracks, I watched him wringing his hands, and grinning as he stared with blue eyes straight ahead through his long bangs and laughingly talked to himself quietly.
A couple of stops later, he got off, and I felt the muscles in my back and shoulders begin to relax.
It was a long ride, and I had an expensive piece of equipment in that large box, so I was disinclined to plug in my iPhone. Some crackhead may have looked over and realized I had way too much technology in hand for one man to consume alone. And let’s not even talk about the ebook reader I had stuffed in my upper inside leather coat pocket either.
So I sat there. We sat there, really – all thirty of us or so, bored and alone, every one of us. It’s a weird anomaly watching so many people looking at the subway advertisement, or at their feet – anywhere except at each other. Scientists of the future will view this as the weirdest of social behaviours. I’m certain of it.
My wandering eyes landed on another very large gentleman, who had his head up against the wall of the train, with his eyes closed. He seemed to be a twin of the disturbing guy who just left, yet …. he was less disturbing. Probably because he was asleep. And he was wearing tan pants, not track pants. I don’t know why that should make a difference. Maybe it doesn’t.
Someone at the far end of the training noticed another guy wearing a hockey jersey. “MATS SUNDIN!! YO!!! WOOOO!!!” The jersey guy pumped his fist in the air and wooo’d back. The large man opened his eyes and began looking around.
Right away I could tell that he wasn’t what the rest of us would call normal either. He wasn’t disturbing though. His face had a childlike innocence about it. His gaze wandered over to the monitor box at my feet and then he looked at me and gave me the biggest smile.
I looked at him, and nodded in acknowledgement. Mr. Cool.
Then I looked away, a little disconcerted and uncomfortable. I paid close attention to some of the subway advertisements and pretended interest in them. And as the guilt of my ignoring him settled softly on my shoulders, I wondered at my reaction. Was I too cool, too macho to engage him? Clearly he was too far away to talk, yet he seemed to be looking for attention.
I snuck a glance at him, and noticed he was looking down. He seemed forlorn and sad. The guilt on my shoulders pressed deeper and I realized how stupid I was being.
Still, my attention wandered around the subway car, the guy with the jersey, the hooter chorus, and finally back to him. He was staring right at me and grinning again. I held his gaze. He pointed at the box, lifted his hands in the air, and mimicked someone typing. I smiled back and nodded.
He continued smiling, and moved his right hand over and mimicked a mouse click. I grinned and mouthed “yup. Computer”.
He kept typing away and clicking on the imaginary mouse, and I couldn’t help smiling. Other people began looking over at him and then at me, entertained perhaps. I don’t know. I didn’t care. I’ll be honest: I still felt uncomfortable. But who cares?
In a city of coldness, it seemed that one childlike man, unaware of the established and accepted social filters, was blithely carrying on, living life as best he knew how. Made me wonder who really are the ones confined in their heads.
Not him. That’s for sure.