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Leisurely Mornings, Afternoon Coffees, and Conversations with Strangers

March 23, 2013

I’ve been having the most enjoyable weekend all thanks to free time and a fascinating book on my hands. Throw in a Skype conversation with the most enjoyable gym buddy (AZ of course), and you’ve got a hell of a week-end! This coming from a girl who is currently typing this blog post on a computer at a University library — to be fair, my battery died from Skyping with AZ earlier this morning/afternoon.

My “most enjoyable weekend” started yesterday. As many of you know, Fridays are my “me days” — days I take off from school work to just “do my own thing.” However, because of the tremendous work load I’ve been having in the recent months, it’s more like every other Friday is my “me-day.” Still, I look forward to it like it’s a beacon of light in my cloudy school-centered world. So anyway, yesterday was one of those “me-days.”

When I woke up yesterday morning, I did every thing at a leisurely pace. Lalala, who cares what time it is? Eventually, I made my way to Yorkville (where I spend my me-days) but instead of heading to the café right away, I decided to visit some shops in the hopes of finding the perfect presents for MS, who was incredibly kind in making things so easy for me when I left Montreal in October, and for ___________ (I cannot reveal it here because it’s a surprise for that person). After two hours of searching, I still couldn’t find anything for either of them. Oh well, I thought, I still have some time to find gifts. With that, I decided that it was time to head to the café.

I have a confession to make (well, it’s not really a confession when many already know this about me): Shopping just isn’t my thing. I get tired and overwhelmed easily. Plus, I’m always too lazy to try on clothes. (Granted, I enjoyed the activity more during first year of University…. I think it had something to do with my not wanting to go to classes.) Shopping for others is the worst unless I previously saw something in a store that I decided to save for a birthday occassion. Online shopping is way better. But I digress.

When I got to the café located in an Indigo bookstore, I immediately felt a wave of calm come over me. I knew a day of peaceful writing/reading was in store for me, but little did I know! I got my drink, spread my things on one of those circular tables made for two, and went to the bathroom. On the way back, I decided that I should look for the book I’ve been amazon.ca-ing all week. You see, since Sunday night, I have been just dying to read this book called, “The Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson.

Of course, I loved it so much that I later bought the book.

Of course, I loved it so much that I later bought the book.

When she was home over American Thanksgiving, my friend VP told me this wonderfully interesting story about this guy in London named Tony who had feigned mental illness to try to get out of a five-year imprissonment. He faked it so well that they believed him and sent him to Broadmoor, one of the three high-security psychiatric hostpitals in England. He had been there for twelve years when Ronson visited and interviewed him. Twelve years!!

Anyway, I can’t remember why VP and I were talking about it, but I remember finding the story fascinating. Still, it disappeared from my memory — that is, until this past Sunday. It was around eleven o’clock when I climbed into bed. Usually, I never go straight from what I had been doing beforehand (e.g., school work) right to sleep. I usually have to crawl into bed and either read a book or watch a show until I tire out. It’s kind of a bad actually (the T.V. watching part, not the reading). I read somewhere once that you should turn away from devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed, so your body can slowly unwind without stimulants (a scary movie before bedtime is, no doubt, the reason for the nightmare you had later on that night). So like I was saying: on sunday night, I crawled into bed and thought about what I wanted to do. I had just finished a lengthy paper on Freud’s Mourning and Melancholia and decided that I just couldn’t do anymore reading. So I turned to my laptop and the thought about what I wanted to watch.

Now there is something that you should know about  me: I’m a fairly intense person in — if not all then — most of the things I do. So when I watch a show on T.V., I don’t just catch an episode each week. I usually like to wait until it’s all over and then spend a week inside watching all the episodes consecutively. Haha. This is another problem I have. My friend HZ once said to me, “You’ve watched all the shows I’ve watched except you did it in like a five-week span.”

OK, so getting back to the point I was making: on that Sunday night, I had nothing to watch. I mean, sure, a new episode of Modern Family had come out, but I just wasn’t feeling like searching it up on the internet and waiting for it to load AND THEN watching it. Too much work. (Maybe I should get a netflix account…?)

With that, I decided that it was TEDTalks time. I love watching TEDTalks, and this was literally all I did every night when I first came home in October. These talks just fascinate me. After watching a few random TEDTalks, I came upon this one: Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test. I recognized the name “Jon Ronson,” but I had no idea from where. I have to admit: there were moments when the video was making me rather nervous. I mean, there I was in the dark, bunched up in my blanket with this 13.3-inch screen 30 cms away from my face. And there is scary music and animation in the video! Both the music and animation reminded me of a book I read when I was ten called, “Coraline.” The video was just eerie. Honestly, tell me this cover doesn’t give you the heebie-geebies. (You can’t!)

It still scares me to look at this cover. Seriously!! I used to have nightmares about Coraline.

It still scares me to look at this cover. Seriously!! I used to have nightmares about Coraline.

Anyway, as the TEDTalk progressed, I realized that this was the exact same story VP had told me back in November. If I was falling asleep before, I wasn’t now! The video is incredible engaging; please go watch it (that is unless you know you won’t be freaked out easily.)

OK, sorry — that was a huge tangent from my story about my day yesterday at the café. So like I was trying to say: ever since I watched the TEDTalk, I’ve been wanting to buy the book. I knew that I probably wouldn’t have any time to read it until summer, so I put it on my “Books to Buy and Read” List. I looked it up on Amazon and decided that I would try to find it at the local used book shop first. When I went to BMV on Thursday night, I couldn’t find anything, so I thought Amazon.ca it was.

So you can imagine, as I was walking back to my seat from the washroom at Indigo yesterday, I couldn’t resist but look up that book. So I did, and I brought it back to my seat. I thought, hey, I have the whole day ahead of me with just a journal and a novel on me. I have time to read ten or fifteen pages. Really, I was intending to read only ten or so pages.

I read eighty-nine pages.

Eight-nine!!! It’s that good. The book is incredibly engrossing.

My notes on the book written on a Starbucks napkin. I literally have a box on my desk full of napkins like this one with weird things written on them.

My notes on the book written on a Starbucks napkin. I literally have a box on my desk full of napkins like this one (and other scraps of paper) with weird, but thought-provoking, things written on them.

At one point, I had to stop reading so that I had enough time left over to write. I have to admit, I was a tiny bit sad that I had to stop reading. All I wanted to do was keep reading!! Man, I love that feeling. That feeling when you’re into such a good book that you seriously don’t want to do anything else. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way with any other activity. I gather that it’s kind of like being in love; all you want to do is spend time with the other person… except in my case, it’s a book. HAHA. Anyway, at the end of the day, I bought the book. I didn’t on buying the book from Indigo, since it’s always much cheaper on Amazon. But I just couldn’t resist. I would have finished the book this morning, but I Skyped with AZ instead. I would have finished the book this afternoon, but I was doing research on psychopathy, mental institutions, and how psychopaths are treated by the law for something I’m writing. You’ll be surprised to hear how “muddled up” things become when dealing with psychopaths. I’ll finish the book tonight.

OK, enough about the book. Onto the rest of my day. I want to mention that at some points during my lovely afternoon spent reading, I had the most enjoyable encounters with two people: one with an elderly man and the other with a woman, I presume, in her fifties.

At one point, there was an elderly man who walked into the café with a cane. He stood right in front of my table, as he scanned the room. I glanced up from my book and looked around too. There were no seats available.

I looked up at him and said, Would you like to sit with me? I can clear this chair for you” at which point I started removing my bag and jacket from the chair across from me.

He came closer and leaned and said, “Well, that’s very nice of you, but I don’t want to intrude.”

I waved my hand around signalling to him that no, no, it wasn’t going to be a problem at all.

He leaned in again, smiled, and said, “Well I’ll just take another look around first, but thank you very much!”

I smiled and sure sure thing. Then I went back to my book, but I couldn’t really concentrate; a part of me wanted to make sure that he found a seat. I kept glancing up at him even as he made his rounds and came back to take up the position in front of my table again. He stood there for what felt like a very long time. So again, I looked up at him and offered up the seat across from me. I could tell that he was hesitant, but not becauase he thought I was dangerous and didn’t want to sit with me; he just didn’t want to intrude. I shuffled all of my things to my side of the table to make room for him. He leaned in and thanked me repeatedly. I smiled. He hadn’t been sitting down for more than two minutes when the table behind me cleared up. He stood up and told me that he was going to move to that table so I could have more room. That was when he leaned again and said something along the lines of: “Please except my gratitude for your kindness. You are very kind!” at which point he stuck out his hand, palm faced up to clasp mine. In that moment, I felt so touched by his sincereness. Even though I was reading about how 1% of the population are psychopaths, in that moment of clasping his hand, I couldn’t help but feel that the world was such a wonderful place. The encounter made me think of two things: 1) about the elderly and wonder how society treats them (I mean, he was just so grateful even though I had barely done anything), and 2) how such small acts of kindness could make a world of a difference for another person.

The second conversation was one I had with a lovely lady in her fifties. About an hour after the elderly man left, a woman approached me and asked if she could sit with me. “Of course,” I said to her. She smiled and plopped herself down with a handful of Décor magazines. A little while later, she looked down at my bag and back up at me.

“Are you with the TDSB (Toronto District School Board)?” She asked me.

The bag she was looking at was my favourite giant canvas bag with “TDSB” printed in green letters; I don’t remember how I acquired it, but I think it was a gift to me when I was student council President. When she asked me that, I said, “Oh haha, no, but hoping to be one day!”

She smiled at me and said, “Ah! Hoping to be!”

I nodded.

She said, “I was a teacher for twenty years with the TDSB and the TCSB (Toronto Catholic School Board)!”

“What subject did you teach?” I asked.

“Business. I taught business.”

“Oh wow!”

“And now, I’m in law school.”

“Impressive!”

“And what subject would you like to teach?”

“English or perhaps Philosophy.”

“That’s excellent!”

Then she proceeded to give me some advice on what I should do once I graduate and where I should go to look for jobs. She even expressed her concerns on what the market was looking like for teachers in Ontario: not too good. I told her I knew that, but it didn’t matter because I love teaching. We talked some more and that was when she said something so truly wonderful. What she said captured exactly what I thought and what I wish the world would acknowledge.

“Teaching is such an admirable profession.”

You know, I do think we all recognize and know that this is true, but often, we forget that it is true. Anyway, as much as I would like to continue talking about teachers, I should cut it here and continue it in another post.

Before the woman left, she looked over at me, smiled and said, “I wish you the greatest of luck in your endeavours.” I was so touched by what she said that all I could manage was a smile and a “You too!” And that was that.

After she left, I pulled out my journal and wrote some things. This was what I wrote at the very end of the entry:

“It makes me think of all the wonderful people you meet. Some only appear in your life for seconds and minutes; others stay for a lifetime. I think I’ll always leave the other seat free from now on. Gotta go have dinner now. I’ll try to write more tomorrow.”

I don’t know where this post was going; I guess I just wanted to convey how much yesterday meant to me. It was just awfully nice; again, I felt like I had a glimpse into my future — that this was how life is going to be after I finish school.

Just leisurely mornings, afternoons spent at the café writing and reading, and conversations with strangers.

And to top the night off: a dinner with friends.

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