I smile at him as he walks up to the stoplight where I am standing.
He smiles back.
He crosses behind me and follows me down the stairs to the C-train platform.
It is rush hour but summer days have dwindled the traffic to a mere trickle of what it normally is.
The train arrives immediately and he gets on behind me.
It is one of the newer trains. The long bank of seats along each window face inwards, towards each other.
He sits two seats beyond me on the same side. He is dressed in a grey shirt, navy pants and vest. I think he works for Transit and he confirms it later when he turns to chat. “Worked for them 16 years,” he says. “It’s kind of my retirement job.” Four days a week driving a shuttle bus. No stress, he adds. Just a chance to talk to people.
Like he’s talking to me as he rides to work.
“How do you like having the C-train?” he asks me as soon as the train begins to pull out of the station.
“I love it,” I tell him.
He looks surprised. “People don’t usually say they love transit,” he says.
“It makes my life so much easier, and less stressful. I don’t have to worry about traffic driving home.”
“We had a family home on the lands that were expropriated,” he tells me.
“Was that hard?” I ask. “Having it expropriated?”
“It sure was for my mother,” he says. “She lived in that home for 53 years. It was her history.” And then he laughs. “But me and my brother, we made sure she got everything she could from the city so that she’s real comfortable now.”
And he goes on to tell me about the ‘battle’ as he called it. How the City didn’t give them all the information. How some older people were taken advantage of. Asked to sign documents that put them on the deficit side of the equation, without any consideration to their circumstances.
“Me and my brother, we got everybody we could whose lands were affected, together to tell them about what we’d found. I printed off every document the City issues on expropriation and found three lawyers who dealt in it specifically.”
But some of the older people, they couldn’t believe the City wouldn’t act in good faith, he told me. ” They thought the City was their friend.”
And he went on to tell me about one woman, in her 80s, who took the $18k the City offered as a ‘signing bonus’, not realizing that she could have received $30,000 in displacement fees if she’d waited. “She called me in tears wanting to know if there was anything she could do. I had to tell her there wasn’t. She’d already signed the documents, taken the cheque and cashed it.”
He paused and nodded his head up and down. This is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. “Sometimes people trust just because they think they should. I felt real bad for that lady but there was nothing I could do for her by then. Me and my brother, we knew the City wouldn’t look out for our mom. So we did.”
And I laugh inside and the Universe laughs with me — you want to learn about trust? Here. Let me deliver up opportunities to listen up, to hear, to learn.
“I hear you,” I tell the man as I get ready to exit the train at my stop. “Thanks for sharing your story.”
“Maybe we’ll run into each other again next week?” he says.
“Perhaps the week after,” I tell him. “I’m on holidays next week.”
And we say good-bye and I get off the train and walk towards my office. The sun beats down. The air is fresh after the rain that fell during the night. City noises ripple all around. I smell the fresh aroma of the flowers hanging from the baskets that line the street. It is a beautiful summer’s day and my heart is light.
What a wonderful day to be alive.