On a grey Friday morning” two weeks ago in the middle of one of my worst flu episodes, a stranger and I struck up a conversation at a streetcar stop. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse physically, he decided to discuss a topic that was front and center at everyone’s dinner table these days – the rising minimum wage. A contentious issue that has led to protests and lots of angry owners and employees. From that point on, the conversation veered into the disastrous consequences of capitalism represented by Apple’s exploitation of miners in Africa to line the pockets of Steve Jobs. From the ills of capitalism, the conversation shifted to education in Ancient Greece and that it was free compared to how much students are paying now. Somewhere in that conversation, he introduced himself as a singer and song writer.
I have always had a soft spot for people who speak openly and candidly about their thoughts and views. I find them courageous. I was just a stranger on the street, and he took a chance on me but I could have been a staunch business-friendly conservative. And I could have also easily taken apart his arguments. It is not everyday we run into interesting characters in the streets of Toronto who lay bare their hearts and souls. It is not everyday that I become so engaged in a street conversation.
Through conversations on the street, we can always learn what people are really thinking and what makes them feel the way they do. We often don’t get out of our immediate circles – our friends’ views are generally aligned with our own and that’s why we are friends. I may not lean one way or the other politically (in fact my votes have been all over the map), but that conversation made me realize that the Occupy Wall Street movement a few years ago was not just something abstract, but a movement that truly reflected the frustration of millions out there. Occupy Wall Street may be a distant memory now but the political issue is far from being resolved. This is why in 2018, this young man is venting his anger and frustration in Toronto. That conversation also woke me up from a protective cocoon that has sheltered me from this man’s frustration for much of my life. I realized at that moment how lucky I have been.
“By the way, what zodiac sign are you?” He asked.
“I am a Libra.” I answered.
“It was meant to be.” He responded and read me our horoscope of the day.
He gave me a fist bump as we went separate ways.
Surely it was meant to be. He came into my life just for the briefest moment to give me a reality check.