One of my absolute favorite things about being in a foreign place is getting lost. Wandering around streets, stopping whenever something catches my eye. Looking up every once in a while, just to notice what’s there. Nothing feels better than hanging out in a public place sipping excellent coffee, people watching and just soaking up the vibe.
Since I’ve settled into Vancouver, my life can mostly be described as trying to fit as many things into a day as possible. It’s my fault that my quality of life has dropped from an 8 to a 5. In a city as laid back as this place, there’s no reason for my cortisol levels to be this insane.
This week my challenge is to treat at least one day like an exploration rather than a mad rush to get from one appointment to another.
To accomplish this goal, I’ll arrive at my job interview 45 minutes early (give or take).
My husband nearly falls out of his chair.
“I’ve been trying to get you to be on time for anything since we met.”
“Have you?” I grab my purse, my resume and dash out the door before he has time to throw something at me.
I love it when these little social experiments have the unintended effect of making my husband happy.
The job interview is at 2:30, so I start walking downtown at 1.
I’ve never noticed the public piano on Granville Street near Robson Street before. It’s such a happy surprise to hear live music when I choose a bench to sit and drink my coffee. A young woman (who’s very shy and doesn’t understand my questions) plays an original composition – so mournful; I get a little verklempt. A fellow from Germany joins me on the bench and offers half his sandwich, which I accept because it’s my new policy never to refuse hospitality. He’s here on a work visa for the summer. We chat a little because his name is Felix, but he’s much calmer than I imagine a Felix to be. He’s here on a work visa for the summer. I guess he’s a programmer and he asks why I assume that.
It’s maybe a combination of your shirt and the way you’ve parted your hair. Also, your eyes look like they’ve been staring at a screen for a while.
It turns out I’m dead right. He can’t guess what I do, because “nothing” isn’t a German concept. But he agrees that I’m pretty good at profiling. Once the pianist finishes, a fellow from France named Jean-Claude asks to join her on his Didgeridoo.
Jean-Claude is hitchhiking across Canada – just like I did when I was his age. As I did, he uses pot and his didgeridoo to enter the right mind frame to attract the perfect rides. I wish him safe travels, and he offers me a joint. Of course, I accept, but I’m not a moron. I’ve got a job interview in 30 minutes, so I pocket it for later.
My interview is at a coffee shop in Nordstroms. I sit down. 25 minutes early.
Across the room, I spot a character. What stands out and piques my curiosity is that next to him is a baseball cap sporting an image of an American Eagle and a Confederate flag. My spidey sense tells me he’s trying to make eye contact. My instinct is fear or at least nervousness. After all, it’s a bad idea to attract the wrong sort of attention. I’m mean what would I do if he liked me? Or followed me home??
Many women I know fear a little flirtation will land them in a sticky situation (no pun intended)
Do I risk attracting the attention of this strange person? Or
Do I act like a reasonable, normal Vancouverite and keep to myself?
But this, in my opinion, is what keeps this city from being fun. What’s the harm in flirting with a stranger? Even if he has a comb-over.
Honestly, I don’t consider this question at the moment because I’m too overwhelmed with curiosity: This accessory is so contrary to the man sitting next to it, that I call out across the room.
“Hi! What’s the deal with your hat?”
“Oh, this?” The man answers, pleased. “I picked this up at a little shop in San Fransisco’s Chinatown.”
“Do you find Chinatown is a good place to buy tacky American paraphernalia?”
“It’s not tacky. It’s very well made.”
He stands up and brings the hat over to me to point out the quality stitching.
I ask if he’d like to join me for a coffee and he practically sprints across the room.
We talk about what makes a city maintain its own character. About how homogeny is the sad and unintended effect of an expensive city. How homogony makes a place boring.
I tell him about my social experiment, and he tells me that if he were still a CEO, he’d hire me in a heartbeat.
“My name is George,” he says as we snap a selfie.
I don’t end up getting the job I was interviewing for, but it’s nice to know somewhere out there a man in a well-made Confederate baseball hat thinks I’d make the perfect employee.