The world moves at a rapid pace and we can miss meeting or observing some very interesting people. I have spent a great deal of time in Union Station, Toronto, and developed a keen interest in people watching; but it wasn’t until after I had retired that I realized just how much I had been seeing.
Despite posted signs and public service announcements to not leave luggage unattended a sweet, little old lady asked me to watch her luggage while she checked the departure board for her train. She could have been anyone’s grandmother travelling for a visit or to take care of her grandchildren while the parents enjoyed a vacation. Her trusting nature could have cost her all her luggage which most likely contained medications which she needed on a regular basis. Perhaps to her I looked like an honest person or she was just very trusting.
I have been approached on more than one occasion by someone begging for money to buy a train ticket. While I feel compassion for these individuals there are better means to get train tickets. Approaching organizations like the Salvation Army with a legitimate reason for a need to travel on the train will often yield a ticket.
A homeless person once threw a Tim-bit at me. It was totally unprovoked and I chose to ignore him and kept walking away. This person may have had mental health issues. Reacting to his behaviour would have made his life more difficult. It is one of those incidents that I can laugh at. There was no harm to my person and it becomes a great story to share.
The young mother with three children in tow, one of them a baby in a car seat, was the most heart wrenching to see. She was accompanied by an older couple pushing a stroller piled high with bags. A conversation with the couple revealed that she was escaping an abusive relationship and was being sent to her family to begin a new and hopefully safe life. The couple were from a shelter and had arranged the travel. Her family was eagerly awaiting their arrival. Porters gathered the stroller and bags to assist the family to board the train. I always prayed that she was successful in her escape and was thankful that in this world there are organizations and people to assist her. The woman was brave in seeking help and protecting her children. She deserved a new beginning.
Students, commuters and vacationers waited in long lines. Occasionally a traveller would rush up to the head of the line to read the portable sign advising when the train would leave and a list of destinations. They would be eyed with suspicion and no way would they be allowed to infiltrate at the head of the line.
The wait offered opportunities to have conversations. People are eager to pass time talking with others while waiting for the train. A teacher burdened with papers to mark was on her way to meet with husband and children for a week end at the cottage. She told me of the meals they would share but I could not help thinking about the work she was lugging along for her weekend escape.
There was the gentleman who had taken the train into the city for a medical appointment which couldn’t be arranged in his home town. His Toronto daughter had met him in the morning taken him to the hospital and had driven him to the station for the return journey. He was proud of his daughter and told me about her career in Toronto and how she had taken time out of her busy day to be with him.
I noticed a lady wearing sandals and on her feet she had the tattoo, ‘Born to Dance’. When asked she revealed that she had been a dancer but the impact of dancing led to a new career with less stress on her legs. She was not depressed by this change of lifestyle; instead she viewed it as a chapter in her life and looked forward to the future.
In addition to people there were pigeons; looking for morsels on the floor. They walked among the travellers. No one seems to mind their presence. I am always concerned about any disease which can be transmitted by birds.
The waiting areas were populated with travellers on laptops, smart phones, tablets, reading books and eating junk food. These travellers speak many languages. Clothing ranges from traditional Mennonite to woman wearing ha-jibs or saris. Business suits reveal the corporate men and women commuting to the high paid jobs on Bay Street. Students wearing ripped jeans and school sweaters or jackets mingle with everyone else. There is no right or wrong clothing.
This is all part of the kaleidoscope of mankind briefly occupying Union Station. It would be a shame to be so busy or self absorbed to miss all these stories swirling about us. Take the time; where ever you are to look around. See the mothers, grandparents, homeless, desperate and confident people who share space with you and don’t wait until you retire to see them.