The Elgin Street scenario

Today I noticed an old, dilapidated car parked on Elgin Street in Carlton.

This car was from another era, reminding of those huge old American cars still being driven around in Cuba. I tried to check out what type of car it was, and after a few surreptitious glances, decided it was a Ford.

Even to me – someone who takes little notice of cars – it was obvious that it dated back to the seventies. What exact shade of green it had been originally was hard to say. Now, it was a pale, faded, metallic green, the sheen long gone, the paintwork matted, mottled, stained and even peeling.

A 1970s Ford. Pic: Wikipedia

A 1970s Ford.
Pic: Wikipedia

The reason I am short on details is that I did not stare too hard as I walked past, because an elderly person, almost as dilapidated as the car, was absorbed in trying to break in to the car. He was working away at the passenger seat window, using a long piece of wire. I didn’t feel any sense of alarm – there was no question in my mind that the car belonged to this man, since they seemed perfectly matched, in era, in degree of decay, and even in color. (In my memory now, it seems as if the man was attired in a greenish-grey outfit.)

There was a shabby grey hat on his head, which was bent and absorbed in the activity at hand, so I can’t provide any more detail since I was reluctant to stare, stop to write a note, or take a picture.

But even as I walked past this scene, the thought had already flitted through my mind that I could write about it tonight.

That’s how we writers are: only in the moment for a spit second – the next moment, we are already thinking about whether the previous moment would make a good story.

Sometimes I wonder what comes first – the tendency to step back and turn experience into a potential sentence that will be written in a diary, journal or blog, or the drive to write, that leads to a tendency to view everything as potential material.

Yet even that is not quite accurate. Perhaps I’m not wondering which comes first at all. Maybe what I’m really wondering is whether it’s a good or bad thing, this tendency – or shall I be generous and call it an ability? –  to step back from an experience and start structuring a paragraph about it in our heads. I wonder why some people need to get their experiences down on paper while others are content to just live them.

I wrote diaries for years, right through high school and until I was in my mid 30s. It felt cathartic to write about my private thoughts and feelings. Perhaps it combatted a sense of loneliness, the universal teenage experience of not having anyone who really understood me. As an angst-ridden teen, writing in a diary was the closest I could get to having a really honest conversation with someone who cared about how I felt.

Many years later, here I am, still writing. Fortunately, I’ve matured at least a little bit since the days of writing copious pages in my diary after the end-of-school party, and my blog posts are not always about my feelings.

I’d love, however, to be the sort of writer who carried a decent camera everywhere they went, and who would, in the scenario above, stop and take a photo, and then talk to the man to find out what was going on. If I was that kind of person, I’d no doubt accumulate some very interesting stories.

But unfortunately, I’m the kind of person who worries that stopping to talk to a dilapidated old man attempting to break into a decrepit old car, could lead to a messy or awkward situation. He would probably want my help, I think to myself. I don’t know how to break into a car! What if it’s not his car?? Do I want to be seen on a main street in Carlton, aiding someone who could be a criminal for all I know, with the theft of a car? I don’t want to be held up here all night! I’m  hungry and it’s cold.

So, lacking the required sense of adventure, I walk on past that scene. And because of that, the story I’m able to tell you about him is almost nothing at all, just a very hastily-formed picture of an old man, as he fiddled with a piece of wire in Elgin Street.

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2 Comments

  1. weebluebirdie

     /  November 11, 2016

    I don’t want to get all soppy or gushy – we both know I don’t go in for that sort of thing. But…I have a wee tear in my eye. I look at the world in the same way. Sometimes I can’t stop to interfere, because a lot of what I see is viewed from the bus window. However, as has been pointed out to me, I’ll talk to anyone. So sometimes I will talk to a stranger on the bus, and I’m always enthralled by what people share. I store it all away – doing nothing with all that I have gleaned.

    Missus has been giving me grief for dropping off the Blogging perch. This is the gushy bit – your words remind why it matters to just go ahead and write. Hell, if I can get into the habit of running 3 times a week, surely I can write a couple of words each week. 😉

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    • Come on, you can do it! After all, what are your legs? (answer: Steel springs) (Oops, wrong motivational speech, that is from the Ozzie movie Gallipoli, by Peter Weir, also bound to bring a tear to your eye if you happen to watch it.)

      Well I’m glad my post gave someone pause for thought! I wish I was more courageous as a would-be-writer, then I’d be poking my face in front of people like that elderly man, asking him what was up, all with the aim of storing up material and having interesting stories to write. Maybe if I did more of that, I wouldn’t sometimes feel prone to writers block and wondering what the point is of writing this blog, and wonder if I should give up. So don’t give up, keep on with it!!

      Liked by 1 person

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