[photo courtesy of subwaynut.com – this is a photo of the actual corridor I refer to in my post]
Several days ago, I was walking down a long corridor from one train line to another. The corridor was filled with folks doing the same thing as I was doing; walking quickly to catch the next train. The echos I heard were primarily made up of the collective sounds from the passersby; bags thrown over shoulders, and boots clamoring for space in the crowded walkway.
As if competing for air time, a voice protruded through the noise and shouted what seemed like a town crier’s meaningful message. I couldn’t quite make out what the noteworthy words were trying to tell me; the reverberation clouded my hearing.
As the voice became louder, its clarity suddenly shrilled into my ears: “PALL MALL – ANYONE HAVE A PALL MALL?”
[photo courtesy of shoppingadviceforyou.wordpress.com]
With this phrase now embedded into my brain, I kept walking; however, what was but a few minutes before a mere muffle of words now stood out as the time-honored, “song stuck in my head for the entire day” scenario.
As I continued through the corridor, a man walking beside me looked at me and started to laugh. And then I started to laugh. It was an inside joke between strangers, acknowledging our mutual realization that if you are going to solicit smokes, you might be better off not to be so particular in your choice of tobacco product, as it were.
Familiarity with this brand of cigarette is in name only. I told my corridor companion that I am from Canada, and I didn’t think we had that brand in the North (well, perhaps they are sold in Canada, but certainly not as a popular brand among the smoking set).
After mentioning my homeland, “The True North strong and free” (yes, tis part of our national anthem) the gentleman’s eyes became wide with delight. He spoke of a time when he was a child, and had the opportunity to spend some time in Saskatchewan, one our of Prairie provinces.
[photo courtesy of brainimir.ca]
I could tell he was reliving some wonderful memories as he described a wooded path that to him, “Felt like a dream”; he went on to say, “Do you know what I mean?” “It’s so beautiful there in Canada.” I smiled and said, “Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean.”
What he told me next made me both proud and sad at the same time. He spoke about how ‘accepting’ everyone was to both he and his sister while visiting Canada. He commented, “I didn’t feel that being an African-American made any difference to those folks up there.” At this point I could feel a lump in my throat about the size of a Canadian McIntosh apple. He went on to say that he can still remember what one of the folks said to him: “We’ve got a lot of REDHEADS up here, but not RACISM.”
I managed to muster up the words to reply to this statement. “Well sir, what is important to me is how we treat each other; that being with kindness and respect. That is what matters the most.” I proceeded to give my new friend the “high-five” which was followed by simultaneous laughter.
The gentleman further shared with me how he wanted to move to Canada on many occasions. He mentioned that he was just about at retirement age. His father had become very sick years ago, and the money saved to possibly fulfill his Canadian dream was spent on medical bills.
I informed this sweet soul that I was trying very hard (in my small way) to show others kindness and caring for the very fact of sharing the planet with each other. My comments were met with a wonderful smile; no words were spoken at that moment, as my train roared into the station (which clearly had the upper hand in the sound department).
We wished each other well, and off we went in our separate directions. And to think, a lovely encounter occurred because of the cry for a cigarette. Pall Mall, anyone?
[courtesy of kindness.sg]