Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Familiar Strangers

I was driving down Vic today when I saw our neighbourhood busker walking along with his guitar slung over his shoulder. I feel like he's never not outside the grocery store playing classic rock covers so I did a double-take. It was him, sure enough--he has very distinctive tattoos on his face and I recognized his guitar strap.

I always think of the town troubadour from Gilmore Girls when I see him. He's, like, our grocery store troubadour. It's to the point where, when I say we're going to get groceries, Sullivan gets excited and says, "And see the guitar guy?" (Note to self: teach Sullivan to say troubadour instead of guitar guy.)

Sometimes he says hi to us, sometimes he's belting something out with his eyes closed as we walk past or taking a smoke break with one of his buddies. He's as much a part of the neighbourhood as the house with the multicoloured picket fence at the end of the block.

Which is why it felt strange to see him all the way over on Vic.

A few minutes later, I turned onto College, and there was the barista from a coffee shop I frequent. Earbuds in, drink in hand, deep in thought or maybe just squinting against the wind as he pushed into it. It was rather windy today. Maybe he was thinking deeply about the wind. But I don't know; I don't know him at all other than that I say thank you to him every time I'm leaving his shop and he says have a nice day and I say you too.

It's weird how people like this slowly become part of your narrative without you really realizing it. You see someone enough times, you don't even have to really connect with them in any way, and then one day you realize they've become familiar. The city shrinks a little every time this happens and feels a little more like home. It's comforting. Isn't it weird that a person you've never truly met can be comforting?

I mean, I guess this is exactly why good TV shows (and movies and books) pay attention to those side characters, the ones that maybe appear once every three or four episodes but somehow become central and endearing anyway. They understand that they're actually super important to the story. They understand that their interactions with the main character tells you both about that character and the world the story is set in.

Maybe I'm that person in someone else's narrative? Does one have to be particularly quirky or consistently present to be that person? I don't have tattoos on my face or own a coffee shop, but I'd like to think that someone somewhere has thought, Hey, there's that girl who... And then they feel like the city is smaller and like I'm a side character in their story.

So question: I know the whole commenting-on-a-blog thing is so 2007, but I'm genuinely interested: do you have a familiar stranger like this? A person/people you see once every three or four 'episodes,' who you interact with on a super minimal basis but whose presence is noted and comforting? Or am I just a big weirdo who has been watching way too much TV? Seriously, feel free to leave a little note.

(I think I actually have upwards of 50 or so I could list off the top of my head. And the more I think about them, the more I appreciate them.)