Stories are all around us, everyday. Our development as a species is rooted in storytelling. In the past, learning from the mistakes of others through story protected us from harm. The structure of our society and our behaviour within it, was shaped by storytelling, that’s the basis of religion and church; abiding by the precepts and preachings of our forefathers.
Not all stories must hold so much gravity though, daily we interact with all kinds of stories just to maneuver our routines. Yesterday, I encountered a brief interaction with the long story arc of racism. Walking up the sidewalk, on my way to the bus stop, an old man approaching me shouted out “Muhammad!”, to which I responded, “no, that’s not my name”. He repeated himself a number of times, in disbelief that my name wasn’t Muhammad. Then he asked, “Aren’t you Muslim?”, “no, sir. My name’s not Muhammad and I’m not Muslim”, “Oh, good!” and then he walked away…?
That was a bizarre story I retold to my friends all day, trying to decipher whether or not I had just encountered racism, or a genuine attempt at understanding each other – which is what communication and storytelling is all about, right? Trying to better understand the people around us and the human condition.
Within an hour of that bizarre encounter, I saw a poster of a friend of mine, Richard Young on the subway advertising awareness of mental health for CAMH. I thought the subway cart was a particularly fitting spot for a mental health poster because only days earlier had I been on the subway and, along with many other passengers, been scared by a yelling, belligerent, unpredictable ‘crazy’ on the subway. I used the word crazy there, because I distinctly remember one woman commenting to another that the guy was was ‘crazy’. I thought that juxtaposition of imagery – her dismissal of this belligerent man’s behaviour against the poster advertising mental health awareness was another great example of a long developing story of misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the story of craziness.
And on the way home from school yesterday, there was a subway delay, as per usual. The announcement overhead was supposed to illustrate the cause of the delay and inform the passengers of the pertinent details for how long we’d be stranded. Of course, in true TTC fashion the entire announcement was mumbled and muffled, except for the last line, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience”. I’ve heard that ‘story’ so many times, it’s just so ingenuine – and it gave me an idea for a story I want to tell. The idea for a comedic documentary illuminating the TTC’s disrespect for their customers. I would just bring a camera on the subway and shoot one trip’s worth of the insanity that takes place on the subway and post it unedited on YouTube. I’ve been slighted so many times by the TTC, but this time I was inspired to laugh at the situation and hopefully others might enjoy it too?