The Old and the New

The Toronto subway is such a teacher. I was heading to a concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music tonight when people appeared before me. Foremost were three young adults – two women and a man. One woman especially was immaculately dressed. Her rich green sweater was adorned with a gold pendant. She took selfie after selfie of her and her friends. The smiles looked plastic to me. The other lady was majorly preoccupied with her hair. She brushed back this and twizzled that. Our modern life doesn’t require mirrors. A smartphone will get the job done nicely.

There was nothing wrong with the preening. Still, it seemed like such a symbol of “me” and the supreme importance of what you present to the world. It feels like we’ve been walking down this road for a long time.

The return trip presented me with another cultural icon – the ear buds. After entering a subway car, I sat at right angles to a fellow deeply immersed in his music. I must have been too close, for he soon moved two seats farther away. The recipe for happiness is clear: push Beethoven or Iron Maiden into your eardrums and create an island for yourself. Go away rather than go towards.

Narcissism and separation. Am I missing something here or are these lousy representations of well-being? There must be another way.

Just before the concert was to start in the Temerty Theatre, I felt the call of nature. An usher directed me down the hall, where I came upon a bathroom sporting both the male and female symbols. Was that the handicapped room? A quick scan revealed that this was the one and only washroom. Inside were five totally enclosed cubicles, and the sinks were being visited by both male and female hands.

I smiled at my companions and marvelled at how I was having a hand-washing conversation with women for the first time in my life. This was novel, fresh, simply new. We were striding into the wilderness instead of following a well-worn path. And we were having fun. Together.

I vote for breaking new ground with other human beings. Who knows what magic can happen when we climb up to the summit and gaze upon the vista revealed? Let’s find out.

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