Day 203 - Chris (3rd person I approached)
July 22, 2014 - Balance, regardless of what ‘they’ say, isn’t always in everything. The first person I approached and asked to chat, listened to everything I said. She was clear with a firm
“No.” There was also a hand gesture to the neck indicating what I understood to be ‘CUT!’ but at least she smiled in her decisiveness. The second person I approached didn’t even let me say ‘Hello’ before yelling
“NO!” at me. I smiled and said
“Really, can’t I even just ask you a question?” He didn’t make eye contact and repeated
“NO!” a bit louder. The passive aggressive stranger in me wasn’t having it. I smiled and said
“I’m a writer and I just want to ask you a simple question...” He looked at me with utter contempt and yelled
“Well hurry up, I have things to do,” as he sat drinking his coffee and reading a book. I caught myself, smiled and told him it didn’t matter, thanked him and walked away. It's Day 203 and this is the first time I've encountered that kind of reaction. It got me thinking about assumptions. I became aware in an abstract kind of way, how Tanya from Day 172 must have felt. When she needed help and asked for it, the majority of people assumed she needed cash for drugs or alcohol, and ignored her. One nice, one not so nice rejection.
The imbalance became weighted in my favour when I approached Chris. Ironically, I had seen him before I approached the first two people, but he was engaged in what looked like a text conversation. I didn’t want to interrupt. When I did approach him, I started with an explanation of what I’m doing and before I finished, Chris said
“and you’re meeting a person every day, right?” He had heard of my project and with a big warm smile, told me he’d be happy to chat. Phew!
Chris was born in Vancouver, BC (British Columbia). He was born at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, and grew up in the semi-rural area of Anmore, in the forests above Coquitlam.
“My family bought the property, when I was seven and my father built our house. My parents still live there. It’s such a great experience to be able to go home to visit. Even when I’m driving there, it’s a great feeling of going home,” he said. We talked about how not many people get to continue returning to their childhood home for most of their life.
“Some of our neighbours are second generation and the families have lived there for seventy or eighty years. It makes for a very close knit community. It was my parents, my younger brother, one dog and three cats,” said Chris.
“My brother is a year and a half younger than I am. He has two daughters and so I get to be the good uncle," he said.
"I even remember the last time we had an argument. I was thirteen and he was almost twelve. It was about absolutely nothing. Just an older brother bothering his little brother. At the end of it I had a fat lip and he had a bloody nose. I realized that it was ridiculous to be fighting, and my mother might have helped me towards that realization. It was a seminal moment in my youth. We’ve been best friends ever since,” he said, with pride.
His father, a Professor of Psychology, taught at Simon Fraser University (SFU).
“He took a sabbatical when I would have been in kindergarten and we lived in Hawaii for a year. When we came back, I was put directly into Grade two. I’ve always done well in school and been advanced in my learning. My mother was a nurse. She stayed home to raise us. My parents wanted to make sure my brother and I felt a healthy challenge in our education,” said Chris. To keep that challenge going, his parents enrolled him in a French Immersion school.
“It was the first late-entry French Immersion class in Canada. From day one the teacher only spoke French. I hated it, and my parents for about six weeks. But to this day I am so thankful that they did that. I was challenged, I met some great people and had wonderful experiences like going to Quebec in an exchange program. I am grateful for all that,” he said. Chris played sports growing up, including football, and then rugby, which he played throughout school.
Another unique aspect of having a psychologist and nurse guiding his upbringing was their approach to discipline.
“Getting caught shoplifting at fourteen and my father starting things of with ‘Why did you do that?’ and expecting an answer. I’d be thinking ‘Wait! Aren’t you supposed to be angry?’ Adolescent Behavioural Risk Taking was his specialty field, professionally. Like why does an 16 year old drive a car at 140 kilometres an hour putting themselves at danger,” he said.
“We grew up in an environment where our parents wanted us think about the things we did and to have good experiences as well. To learn from what we did.”
Right after graduating high school, Chris went to SFU to study Psychology.
“I figured I was going to get my undergrad degree and that would be that. I took a little longer to complete because my father took another sabbatical and we went to New Zealand for a year. When we got back I finished my undergrad. I enjoyed that so I continued and went to UBC (the University of British Columbia) and got my Master's degree in Sports Psychology.” Again he took his time in getting his degree.
“I was working as well, and I just took longer than I had to. I was enjoying it,” Chris said. He went on to work for Sport BC, an organization promoting amateur sports across the province.
“I worked in the administrative side. I’m an organizer, I like to keep things in order,” he told me. Chris spent fifteen years working for Sport BC. He is now the alumni director for an internationally recognized private boy’s preparatory school. The school has both a day program and residential boarding as well, with students coming from 18 countries worldwide.
“I am still involved with rugby too. I coach the Grade nine rugby team at school and referee matches as well,” he said.
Chris had been waiting for his girlfriend while we talked. They have a mutual arrangement about grocery shopping. Chris sits patiently on the sidelines while his girlfriend does the shopping. Then he goes to the checkout and bags and gets the groceries to the car. We stepped outside to grab a photograph. We chatted a bit about the dynamics of talking to strangers.
“I look forward to checking out your project and seeing who you connect with in future stories,” he said to me.
“It seems you’re not only making connections with people, but you’re learning more about life through the people you meet. That's interesting!” #notastranger