I missed the story of the decade today. Ten minutes into my run, I past a guy in his early twenties wearing a black leather bomber jacket, black baseball cap on backwards, baggy blue jeans and skater shoes. The rain came down sideways, hard, so he held his hand like a visor over his eyes. No umbrella. Walking. Alone. Friendly. He smiled and said “hello” and I thought “what are you doing here? Where are you from? Where are you going? Who are you?”
Was he my story of the decade? I'll never know because I never asked. I wasn’t thinking like a writer yet. Well, I was thinking like a writer. I had the inquisitive thoughts. I had paper and a pen with me too. But I was not acting on them yet. “If I pass him again, I’m going to stop and chat with him” I said.
I ran ten more minutes and passed two people huddled beside a tripod. The woman fiddled with her long lens, pointed towards UBC. The man wrote in a clipboard. Gore-tex jackets and pants. Hoods up. No umbrellas. Locals.
“I wonder what they’re do…” Stop! I stopped. I started running. I stopped. What are they doing? I started running. Okay, well at least you paused. I continued running.
Mike McCardell I am not. Not yet. I too believe that everybody has a story. I want to share their stories. I want to find the story in the ordinary.
Why was I so hesitant today? I’m not shy. I like talking to strangers. As a police officer, I did thousands of interviews of strangers. As the “good cop”, I interviewed drug dealers and other criminals who got comfortable enough that they opened up and shared stuff, personal stuff. I’ve spoken with victims of domestic violence and abused children. And delusional people who did not hesitate to admit that, yes, the clocks on their walls did in fact, speak to them directly, in latin. These were tough conversations. Why was I scared to chat with bird watchers?
But this was different. This was just me. Without a uniform. Stripped down to my most vulnerable self. I was okay with asking the questions. But once my pen and paper came out I would have to explain that well, yes, I, uh, am a writer.” “You’re a writer?” “Um, yes, I am a writer.” “What do you write?” Ugh. Nothing yet. “I, uh, am working on an article, uh, for my blog, um, about Stanley Park. 30 days in Stanley Park.” How could I make them comfortable enough to get their story, their personal story, when I wasn’t comfortable myself yet? Isn't this part of your Stanley Park assignment?
“Ah, come on, seriously. The next people I wonder about, I’m going to ask them. Just ask them,” I said
A ran to the outdoor pool where I saw two parks department workers, one with a chainsaw, standing next to a chair carved out of a tree stump.
I first saw this chair yesterday, a new piece since I last visited Second Beach’s living room. Two teenaged girls had screamed when they saw it. “Oh my god, like you totally have to like, sit in that chair, like I’ll take your picture and send it to your mom” said one. The other girl plopped into the chair and dangled her long, thin arms and legs all over the chair, like spaghetti refusing to get into the strainer after poured from the cooking pot. A classic teenage pose of “hey mom, look at me”.
I wonder if those are the guys that made the chair?
“Hi, can I ask you guys a question?” Good, way to go. “What’s up with the chair?” I asked.
“We had to take down the tree so we made a chair” said the guy without the chainsaw.
“Is it going to stay a chair?” I asked. Not bad, keep it coming.
“Yeah, we’re just cleaning it up” he said.
“Cool. Yesterday a couple of teenage girls posed for pictures in it,” I said, “they really liked your chair”. Nice, nice, positive words.
I then stopped. Next step was paper and pen. That’s okay, good job, you’ve got all month to practice.
Both men were quiet too. But they grinned as their eyes dropped and scanned their chair. They were artists now. And people got joy from their work.
I didn’t’ get the whole story, but I got enough. Enough to add to my Stanley Park memory file. And when I miss the story of the decade, I’ll be open to the little one right in front of me.