encounter on queen st. w.

everyday i had been driving home past this billboard for the new mini cooper which compared it to a go-kart . it said "the world is your go-kart track". indeed. i used to own an original mini cooper and i raced karts. i kept thinking i should borrow one of the office's digital cameras and take a photo of it. the billboard is right off queen street, east of bathurst surrounded by colourful graffiti. a very cool shot it would be. so i brought a camera home one friday night.

toronto, ontario, canada. saturday march 16, 2002. it was sunny and cool, about 4 degrees c. a nice day for a queen street west walk. then i figured, why not take some shots other than the mini billboard as i wander. i got the billboard picture and continued on. funky and creative signs, storefronts, building details, graffiti, posters on every surface. i was capturing the atmosphere of the area i know so well, near where i live.

i had now worked my way along queen, east of spadina, until i'm right in front of the 360, near the rivoli. this young girl is sitting on the sidewalk panhandling. as i am scouting for my next shot she asks me "why don't you take a picture of me?" i agreed. she gave me a really nice smile and i got the shot. then i showed her the preview. it turned out quite well. the benefits of digital technology. instant results. she was really quite pleasant. i gave her some money. then i said to her "why don't you take my picture in your spot?" she was game. we had turned the tables. she had the digital camera and now i'm sitting on the sidewalk. she took the picture. then we checked it out and it was good. a bit more chat, i thanked her, and i was on my way.

it was brief encounter but this girl seemed quite sweet. she probably had not been on the streets that long was my impression. then i started thinking about it a bit more. why was she there? not that i had to know, but i wondered. i see these homeless kids all the time. you get very used to it. a bit later i decided i would go back and offer to buy her a hot chocolate or maybe a coffee. but she had moved on. i thought, maybe i'll run into her another day and have that chance. i never saw her again.

when i got home i looked at the pictures on the computer. funny how we were dressed in a very similar way. even in the same colours. sitting in the same cross-legged position, on the same piece of sidewalk. it made me remember a line you may have heard before:

"there but for the grace of god -- go i."

a reminder - we don't really get to choose our lot in life do we. so much is pre-determined by the world we are born into. there are a series of decisions to be made in life, and we make choices. we can work hard to get somewhere, but have we been given the options? some of us get the chances. we are privileged. we can so easily take what we have for for granted. a home. education. computers. mini coopers. racing go-karts. a job we like. friends. family. opportunity. and so much more.

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