There are a lot of people on this earth.
I know that seems like an obvious statement to make, but every now and then, I am hit with an example that makes me stop and actually say it aloud. Somehow, saying things out loud seems to make them more real. There are a lot of different people in this world.
A lot of people in this city in fact. Breaking it down farther, there are a lot of people within 1000 meters of me right now at this very moment. Different people. Everywhere I look, I see people, and I don’t personally know a single one of them. I am sitting in the shade on a park bench at an event known as Etobicoke’s RibFest. Although it isn’t vital to the concept, this is the third year Etobicoke (yes, that’s the place’s name) has held a Rib Fest. It’s a baby event in the grand scheme of things, still struggling to find an audience. This year, it’s being held over our National holiday weekend; Canada Day, so the crowds are pretty good.
I’ve decided once again to take my writing on location and observe. From this bench, I only see a small portion of the activity around me. They say everybody has a story to tell, but since I don’t know any of these strangers, I am resolved to write my own story about them, and how they all relate to me.
Sadly, the writing is starting to hurt, so my great idea of creating a whole series of outdoor compositions may be cut short. I didn’t mention I am writing on my hand held Palm Pilot type computer using a teeny 4 inch pen-like stylus with an equally teeny 4 inch on-screen keyboard. If you’ve never tried to write anything of length on a Palm Pilot device, then I can only approximate the pain and aggravation, to drawing a detailed duplicate of the Mona Lisa on a grain of rice with a sewing needle. To be honest, that would require a little more artistic talent as well as patience, but basically the same awkward hand/wrist position. My wrist hurts, but I continue – for the art.
RibFest is a crappy event. It serves a purpose for sure, but overall, the whole thing is almost silly if you take the time to think about it, or at least think about it in the way I think about things, which may not be the norm. Still, there are a lot of people here, and each will leave with a memory, perhaps a story. As I grow older, I am starting to realize more, that making memories may be what it’s all about. By “IT”, I mean life, just in case you didn’t catch that philosophical meaning. Creating stories to share seems to be one of the best parts of life. Humans like to talk to each other, and the RibFest lets us talk to people today, and then talk to different people tomorrow, about how much we either enjoyed the event, or how much we hated it. Either way, it’s the story that seems to count, and it can be retold over and over for years and generations to come if something more eventful than usual happens.
I stop pecking away at my computer, shake my pained wrists vigorously, as if they were wet, and look around, once again reveling in the wonderment of how many people are here. I understand there are just as many people – if not more, at events, and in buildings all over the city; the province, the country; earth in general. Wow. Each with a story I’ll never know about. I can relate to some; remembering my own life experiences through their actions. I look at others, and dream or fantasize about living an experience I never had. Still others are totally foreign to me, both physically and metaphorically. Some I can understand, and some I’ll never understand. Some seem much like me, and others I lived my life cautiously avoiding.
It’s a moment like this when I think – this is it. This is life. Of all the roles we play on this world Shakespeare called a stage, we are most often the spectators. We watch and learn. We strive to become what we see in others, or try our best to avoid it, and never end up working in a tent on a super hot July afternoon, selling shampoo to people with rib-soaked fingers.
How odd is that? There are only about 15 booths here, and not a one worthy of comment, except for the outstanding absurdity of the one selling shampoo. It’s a perfect example of how the world is indeed filled with minds I can’t yet comprehend. Somewhere, somebody not only thought up that idea, but they thought it was good, and they followed through all the expense and steps to do it. They’re selling Shampoo in the hot sun at RibFest.
Then, equally as odd to me, outside what I consider to be normal, there are the countess others that think; “Yes, RibFest is a fine place to buy shampoo. I’ll take two of those heavy bottles please.” and consider it normal, not odd. The world is filled with people like that. That’s what makes it work I suppose.
“Honey, can you hold my Velvet Elvis bath towel and Shania Twain framed poster please? I’m going to buy some Shampoo. It’s not on sale particularly, but I just felt the need. We forgot to pick some up at the Flea Market last Sunday.”
So I walk by, making note mentally, but not spending a dime. I avoided the temptation to buy a new pair of $3 sunglasses, or a raffle ticket for the local charity, or some cheap ceramic puppy dogs. As noted, this is only the third year for RibFest and previous years were worse. The really good booths are elsewhere this weekend no doubt, but the crowds were here anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how the booths change for next year. The life of a booth-owner is yet another life I know little about. I can only watch and learn.
Rides. Another whole universe I seem to have missed out on. I’ve tried – really I have, but I never really enjoyed rides, even in my younger days, which seem typically to be the prime time for carnival rides. Back then, a whirl on the Ferris Wheel was probably 50 cents, and today it’s $3.00 or more. To be honest, I have no clue. It never even interested me enough to find out. I never wanted to pay for fear. My brain scares me with enough aspects of real life as it is. Today, I don’t even go into the midway to watch the couples mingle and scream. I am content to know they exist, and they’re another part of the crowd I feel no need to understand. I’m more fascinated with the people walking by me with heavy bags of Shampoo this afternoon.
My hands are sore, and I know it’s time to quit for now and move on to new experiences elsewhere. As I look up once more from my chore, I realize I’m this single guy, sitting on a park bench in prime shady area, all alone, plucking away at my phone for 20 minutes. There is a brief moment of wonder in my mind. How many have passed without any notice to this odd behavior, and how many watched for a moment and wondered to themselves; who is that, and what is his story. Maybe they even thought; “Wow – there sure are a lot if people in this world.”