Sea of People

I feel the weight of the heavy metal door suddenly alleviate as I make my way out of the building; the woman behind me is larger than me and seems to be in an even greater rush than I am.

In the shade of the monstrous skyscraper, I stand at the edge of the downtown square. The hustle and bustle of the city street has me entranced. I can see hundreds of people, going about in all directions, walking, jogging, on bikes or roller blades. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get somewhere; everyone except a few men and women in tattered clothing, sitting by the edge of the building, with the sum of their minimal belongings, on the hard sidewalk.

A group of men in business attire stand a few feet away from the entrance, where I am, lit cigarettes – or death catalysts – in each of their hands. A regular smoker gathering, I suppose, yet none of them are conversing with one another; had they and would they ever talk to one another? A slight gust of wind blows from their direction, and my nose inadvertently cringes as the smell of cigarette smoke infiltrates my airway. My hair is tossed about my face.

It is an early autumn morning, and the sun rose but a few minutes ago. The air is cool and crisp, as it should be this time of year. I am wearing a light fall jacket, and I can feel the silkiness of the viscose scarf around my neck. The chill in the air does not stop the many people from populating these streets; it only makes them go about their business faster than usual.

I can hear the sound of cars, rushing past my spot at the edge of the busy downtown street. Each car has a few passengers, some single drivers; each must be coming from different places in and around the city, and all passing through this square on to various destinations. I see a man standing near me by the curb, impatiently checking and rechecking his watch. He is waiting for a taxi. Some passer-by taxis wave him off and others go on by, already carrying passengers.

One yellow city cab stops across the road, and a man with unkempt stubble on his cheeks and a worn baseball cap on his head leans over to roll down the passenger window. The impatient man tries to cross the street through the rushing traffic, and does not bother to go to the pedestrian crosswalk that is but a few metres away. He hurries across the street in his trousers and blazer, briefcase and coffee in hand. He slips into the vehicle and zooms away. Maybe he has never met the driver of the cab before, or maybe it is actually his fourth time riding in that very cab; but in their daily rush, neither the business man nor the cab driver will know or care about which is true.

I look over to the passenger crosswalk. It is the first time I am seeing a four-way passenger crossing. The entire intersection is a sudden sea of people; I see them walking about in every direction, like ants scurrying onto a picnic table for their share of leftovers.

People bump into each other and get in each other’s way. Who knows how many times they already have, and how many times they will in the future? I see the sea of people subside into two flowing rivers along the buildings before the orange flashing hand warns them that the rushing motor vehicles will take over the street again.

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