Friday, November 03, 2006

where's a camera when you need one

A lot of streetcar/TTC-riding stories lately, but what can you do - welcome to the realities of my life.

Was on the westbound Queen car this afternoon. I'm not usually on the transit in the middle of the day, but I took today off for a 1pm job interview (oh okay, and also for the sleeping-in).

It was a pretty empty car, which is in itself a pretty awesome occurence. Room to sit, room even to cross your legs if you are so inclined. Bliss.

So, there's not a lot of peeps on my giant slinky streetcar. I'm sitting pretty close to the back, and no one is behind me, so I have a pretty sweet view of the all the happenings. This teeny, tiny, little old Chinese man gets on the streetcar at the Spadina stop. Tiny doesn't even really do him justice. I mean, this guy was miniscule - 4 1/2 feet tall tops, 60 pounds soaking wet, MAX, wearing a saggy old beige cardigan, a t-shirt of indeterminate colour, grey polyester grandpa pants, a black and brown striped scarf and one of those foam-front trucker hats that all the kids are wearing these days. So he's cute to begin with, and that's eye-catching enough on an empty streetcar, but the thing that really catches my eye is that he's pulling one of those giant shopping baskets on wheels. You know the ones I'm talking about. They're everywhere. But his didn't have that fancy plastic plaid liner, even from the back end of the car I could tell his was...different.

The teeny man sat in the first half of the car for a few stops, but you could tell he was restless. Lots of fidgeting with the cart and shifting around in his seat. Sure enough, a few stops later, he takes advantage of our being frozen in traffic to venture back to my end of the car, where he found a seat better to his liking (on a butt that bony I'm amazed he was able to sit at all!), that happens to be two rows away from my seat. And thank god, because otherwise I never would have seen the spectacle that was his empty shopping cart.

Now, I should maybe mention that although he is perhaps not dressed as au courant as some of the other Queen West hipsters who ride the car, he by no means looks homeless or remotely crazy. Just OLD. Really, really old. Now that he's closer to me, I can see the four or five wisps of hair on his head through the mesh of his hat (which is of course perched on the very top of his noggin), and the couple of long straggly white hairs coming out of his ears. His hands have a death grip on his cart, and now that he's close enough for me to see his ear hairs, I know why - this cart is no mere method of grocery transportation.

He has painstakenly woven several different ribbons through the mesh at the bottom of the cart, I'd say the first foot and a half of the bottom were woven in an incredible assortment of ribbon - we're talking Joseph and the technicolour rainbow here, as though he collected every shred of ribbon he'd ever come across on the street or in a store or at home, and incorporated it into the cart. It looks almost as solid as the old plaid plastic bag I mentioned earlier - I bet he has no problems when it rains.

The rest of the cart is covered in a mixture of old and new photographs and newspaper clippings - in English and what I think might be hand-written mandarin - everything sort of wrapped in saran wrap, or some sort of clear plastic. There is writing and drawing on most of these photos and paper clippings - items are circled, crossed out, underlined several times. I'm dying to know what the signifigance is - I imagine that if I was an author, I could find hundreds of stories in these clippings alone.

Also attached to the mesh is a Canadian flag, much the worse for wear, and several fake flowers and greenery in similar condition. Some sort of paper, possibly of the charmain variety (if you know what I'm saying), is wrapped around and around the handle bar of the cart, the very handle that he refuses to let go of.

As we pull up to Lansdowne Station, he prepares to get off the car, asking a young fellow nearby to pull the stop for him, using gestures that could have looked ridiculous, but ended up looking sort of dignified.

By this point, I am dying to know where he's from, and what he's doing on the streetcar, and why he has this fancy cart. But of course I don't say anything, don't even really make eye contact other than sort of smiling in his general direction. Which I'm pretty sure he can't even see. Then as he gets off the car - backwards down the stairs with his cart - I finally see what the front of his formerly white foam-front hat says, in a plain, centred red font: Toronto Is For Lovers.


Anonymous roro said...

Aw. Great post! Too bad you don't have time to knit that guy a scarf. . .

12:05 PM  

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