DateMarch 13, 2010

oh dear – pages from zackeria’s diary

Dear Diary,

I am guilty as charged. As I flip through these pages I notice that I do not ever call you dear. Which raises the question: are you, in fact, dear to me? If so, then what is it that makes you so? Maybe it’s just something people say without thinking too much about it. Like the people who give you a nod in the hallways and say ‘How are you?’ or ‘How’s it going?’, but keep on walking. What they really mean to say is ‘hey’ or ‘yo’, something to quickly recognize your presence as they walk by. Had they really meant the questions they asked, they would slow down or stop and wait for a response. It’s just something people say, dear. They don’t really mean it. So with the thousands of diaries around the world, with thousands of entries in hundreds of languages, how many mean the dear they call out to?

Perhaps we are all swept by the motions around us, barely pausing to think twice. Some barely pausing to think even once. And yet I think, and I think again every time I come to write here. But I do not call you dear, at least not in the greeting. What does this say about our relationship? It is largely one-way, isn’t it? You are like a sounding board where I hear the echoes of my words. And where you listen to the ink. A shelter for these words – a safety that is, at times, not afforded to them elsewhere. My mood and musings are often with you, and yet I barely know you.

I continually change and evolve with the passage of time, and you… you remain a constant. The binding is the same and the paper is the same. You have, however, lost that new book smell you used to carry. Like perfume that wears off after a while. That is a good thing. I am allergic to perfume. But I am worried, you will not last forever. You, like others, are bound by limits. And when those limits approach, I will simply have to get another diary, another book. But another dear? Or, perhaps, you are a collective? Volumes of a saga? Really, tell me, what are you? What is it that you want?

I would have thought that I had the upper hand in this relationship. But time after time it is I who gives of myself to you. You know me. Which, then, makes me wonder: am I dear to you?

Zackeria Zaheer

west bound to kipling – pages from zackeria’s diary

The start is always the hardest part. That is probably why they invented alarm clocks and coffee. The alarm clocks get me out of bed but I maintain a zombie-like posture until I’ve had that first cup. It’s a ritual, sparked by an electronic gadget that automatically conceives a cup of coffee every morning at the same time. Like clockwork.

The second part is finding your way around. This isn’t all that easy but it’s assisted by the TTC. It’s a powerfully liberating concept: the ability to get from any one corner of the city to another on a single ticket. Of course, this may require traversing multiple subway lines, rapid transit trains, street cars and buses, but it’s possible. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Riding through the system doesn’t come without its quirks. I have an entire list of pet peeves. People complain about the “stand left, walk right” rule that some people just can’t seem to follow, but my complaints are based on the unwritten rules that no one seems to know.

What do you do the moment you get off an escalator? The wrong answer is stand around thinking about what your next move should be. The correct answer is you get the hell out of the way. See, the thing is that there are other people behind you, and while an escalator might look like a normal staircase, it moves on its own. So people can’t just stop on an escalator while you take all the time to decide your next steps. The escalator will eventually push the people behind you right into you. This inconveniences them more than it inconveniences you. So get out of the way immediately.

Another thing that bothers me is that lack of dignity with which people manoeuvre around trains. People will complain about letting people out before you try and get inside the subway car. Yes, we should do that. But also, once we’ve gotten inside can we move around with just a little grace? Instead, people race towards seats as if there were nuggets of gold on them. Like a gold rush. Calm down and relax. It’s not the end of the world if you fail to capture a seat. If you’re of the few who’s not rushing to find an empty seat, you’re pin-balled around by all the other moving parts. So, little old ladies who push people out of the way to get to a seat, chill out a little. I wasn’t going to take the seat anyway.

I appreciate that you are in a hurry, I really do. So when the chimes that indicate that the subway car doors are about to close start to sound, I understand why you run towards the doors. You don’t want to miss this train and have to wait for the next one. I get it. But let’s revisit the escalator rule, if you’re running towards the doors it’s likely that there are other people behind you that are also in the same hurry that you’re in. So don’t just pause once you get into the train. Do your celebratory pause after you get out of the way.

Quirks aside, do you know what happens when you fall asleep standing up? Your body relaxes and you start to fall towards the ground. Similar to how an unconscious person would fall. Your knees give out and start to bend as your upper body weight pushes you down. Unless you’re really out of it you don’t actually fall all the way down. Somewhere in the middle you start to wake up and resist gravity’s pull. I wouldn’t happen to know this otherwise, but it’s just another lesson you learn while riding the rocket.

The coffee machine was broken that day and I hadn’t had my morning starter cup. I was in a hurry, so stopping at Timmy’s wasn’t an option. I was past the subway rush and the RT was practically empty. I dozed off for the 15 minute ride to Kennedy. On a seat, no less. Kennedy wasn’t exactly packed but I didn’t feel like sitting down anyway, and there was plenty room to stand. I stood on the side where the doors stay shut, this way you get to lean on something and you’re not blocking anyone’s path. But you have to be careful when you start off at Kennedy, because at Warden you have to switch sides. The doors start opening from the opposite side.

Warden came and I made my switch. A couple of doors away two ladies were standing near the doors as well, they didn’t make the switch. A man stood on the opposite doors of the ladies. All with coffee cups in hand.

At the next stop the doors opened where the ladies were standing and they were getting in the way of incoming and outgoing commuters. The ladies stood their ground and continued standing at the doors. The man on the opposite side suggested that they move elsewhere, but they ignored him and continued chatting. A few more stops and still the same thing, the ladies were still at the doors and people were having to manoeuvre themselves around them.

The man on the other side persisted with advising the ladies to stand in a different location, but the ladies would have none of it. I heard a brief “mind your own business” bit even from a few doors away. I’m not exactly sure what words were exchanged but at the next stop one of the ladies got right up in the man’s face. Everyone else in the subway car was trying to ignore the show and were indeed trying to “mind their own business”.

The lady got progressively louder, as did the man. She was still right up in his face and he kept telling her to back off. Now it was her that was persistent. The man pushed the lady back with both his hands, separating her from the space around his face. In that very moment, in what seemed like an instant gut reaction, the lady threw her coffee on the man’s face.

The man, in what seemed like an instant gut reaction, pushed the lady against the doors and started choking her. It all happened so very fast. From where I was standing I couldn’t see clearly, but it seemed like there was kicking involved as well, from both parties. A few other men around the incident quickly started pull the man off the lady. We had almost approached the next stop and someone pressed the emergency yellow strip.

The doors opened and TTC personnel got involved.

“I’m going to press charges!!!” screamed the lady.

“So am I!” replied the man, “Bitch threw hot coffee in my face!”

The three of them walked away with the people in uniform and the train was on its way.

All of a sudden I wasn’t missing that cup of coffee anymore, not so much.

signs and searches – pages from zackeria’s diary

Some people are looking for a sign that will take them to Heaven. I'm content with a sign that guides me here.

I was out with a couple of friends the other day, and even though I live here, I had trouble finding my way around. I have reason to believe that I was born with a directional disability. I was advised that I look for and follow the signs around me. The advice was, of course, meant in the literal sense. There are boarded signs all around us; on the roads and in our paths. With arrows and numbers they tell us where and how far certain places are. If you miss a sign, no worries, just backtrack. This helps us determine the directions we must pursue.

Taking a step back, however, we can see signs in a whole new light. look for and follow the signs around me. The profundity of that statement is not lost on me. I can see the boarded signs, as they are embodied in a physical form. It is the unboarded signs that elude me. The signs and signals that continually manifest themselves in one form or another, but without clarity. Their subtlety is lost on me.

Furthermore, the trouble when dealing with signs from above. Those that come from God. I have enough trouble parsing the signs from people and plants. How can I deal with the signs from The Deity? This is troublesome because the other day I prayed to God for a sign. After waiting for a sign (and not seeing any), I prayed for the ability to see a sign. This is a complicated business.

So, dear God, I implore you, send me a sign I can see, send me a sign I can touch. If You think I’m asking for too much, send me a sign, and I won’t.

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