Misha Glouberman in “The Chairs Are Where The People Go” wrote about a part of my life. When I moved downtown I decided to establish verbal contact with a complete stranger every day, and excepting for those days (rare!) when I do not venture outside my apartment, I make verbal (or perhaps more correctly oral-verbal) contact with someone new every day.
Misha Glouberman pricked one of my bubbles by pointing out that for some people, perhaps their only quiet time is in the street or in the subway train, where they can spend thirty minutes shut off from people around them. Perhaps the subway train can be a quiet introspective interlude between the-crowd-at-the-office and the crowd-at-home
Still and all it set me thinking, as I have done for twenty-five years, about My Village.
I live, and have always lived, in a village of not more than two hundred people. Nowadays my village is a small part of a large city of about two and a half million people, which city is part of a conglomeration of about six million people.
Amongst all these six million people there are not more than two hundred (well, OK, probably less than a hundred) with whom I am in contact on a regular basis.
Here is a partial list (you can write your own):-
- The man who delivers the free Toronto Star to Ryerson University six days a week
- The two ladies in the basement café at Bell Trinity Square
- The half dozen librarians in my local branch (Yorkville) or the Toronto Public Library
- The members of the Sunday afternoon Writer’s Co-operative that meets in the Toronto Reference Library
- The old guy from Canada Post who parks his van in the laneways and lugs bins of mail into the nearby residential buildings, including ours.
- The two men in College Park who do such a good job of repairing my shoes and shoulder bag.
- The four smiling young ladies in the Harvey’s on Yonge street just north of St Clair who support me in my moments of weakness. (The fries there are the best on Yonge Street) (ditto the fried onion rings)
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Not on my list are the various clerks in the Toronto Transit Commission kiosk at College Subway Station who seem to rotate in and out on a weekly basis. Also streetcar and bus drivers – a different one each time I take a ride.
I ask myself “How is it that after over four years of collecting a free copy of The Toronto Star from Ryerson University six days a week I have not made the time to learn the man’s name?
I ask myself “How is it that after over three years of visiting Yorkville Library about three times a week, I know only the names of Cindy and of Anna?
I ask myself “How is it that after four years, I still do not know the name of the man who drops the government cheques in my mailbox each month?
Or the name of the bank teller who cashes those cheques for me?
And so on.
I feel I should make the effort to know the name of every one of my villagers.
After all, there aren’t a great many people in my village. And they are all I’ve got.