My lunch break at work never falls at a time when I’m hungry. So, I read. I’ve taken to reading in a few different places: outside, on a bench in the lobby, in the break room. Some have offered natural light. Some have offered a quiet place. Yet, now it’s getting too cold to sit outside, a bench in the lobby is too noisy, and the break room has no window to allow in natural light. As you can imagine, I need to find somewhere new.
It just so happens that I went exploring recently. My work building is big and there are lots of places I haven’t seen before and, since I work weekends, there was no one there the past few days, a perfect time to take a look around. In so doing I found a couple of nice places. A window with a large ledge. An upstairs lobby with almost no noise. And a sky walk.
I’ve taken to walking among the three the past few days while I read: ledge, lobby, sky walk, lobby ledge, hallway, other sky walk, back and forth, back and forth. After all, sitting ten hours a day is bad for the spine and I get restless. Though, walking and reading isn’t the most conducive either, especially on weekdays when you’re likely to run into more than one person. Today, I decided not to push my luck with passersby.
Instead, I sat down. There’s plenty of chairs to pick from, but that’s not where I sat. I sit in a chair all day. Why would I want to sit in one on my lunch break, too? No, I sat on the handrail in the sky walk where the afternoon sun peered through the windows. It looked more like evening sunlight what with the days being so short now: soft and warm. It was perfect.
Perched on the handrail with my book in hand and sunlight streaming through the window I went about my half hour of reading. A few people passed. They were quiet, silent in fact. Likely some thought me peculiar, but that’s nothing new. However, I was shocked when a woman spoke to me, not scolding, but amused. She said:
“You look so cute sitting there. I wish I had a camera.”
Taken a bit by surprise all I could do was look up. Her smile was warm, her tone genuine, and just like that I smiled in return, amused myself by her commentary (especially since I don’t consider myself on the ‘cute’ side :p). However, it made me think.
Our lives settle into a rhythm. We do the same things at the same times in the same places day in and day out. We expect the same interactions from people and for our surroundings to stay the same. Yet, I threw a wrench in this woman’s daily routine. I, with my natural desire to be odd, startled the woman enough from her usual walk through the building at the end of her work day (as she appeared to be leaving) to say something.
Additionally, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of impact that small interaction would have on her. Would she think about it later? Would she tell her husband, her children, her friends of the silly girl reading on the railing in the sky walk? Would it spur her to do something out of the ordinary? After all, if it effected her enough to say something to me, would it effect her enough to change her thinking, even if slightly, slowly?
I suppose this sounds rather egotistical, but it’s by no means how I intend it to come across. Rather, I contemplate this because of the book I happened to be reading whilst sitting in the sky walk on my lunch break: ‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury. A book where people are so caught up in themselves and their routine and not asking questions that they’ve become incapable of interacting with other people.
Some days I feel we’ve reached this point in society nowadays. We use texts. We rely on tweets. We update Facebook statuses. We snap photos. We interact with people without physically interacting with them and it worries me just how close we are to a world akin to Fahrenheit 451. It’s why it shocked me to be spoken to. I was Clarisse McClellan. I was the one doing something odd and while most people ignored me, this woman spoke out. This woman could very well be Guy Montag.
I don’t know yet how the book ends or what happens to Guy Montag and I definitely haven’t met Clarisse’s fate. Even so, could a simple, single interaction be a force that tips the balance of awareness? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps I’m just a silly girl reading in a sky walk, and yet that woman wasn’t the only one to notice me sitting in such an odd spot doing such a strange activity in the middle of the day and decide that something should be said, something positive, amused… aware.