Sliding doors, sliding lives

Take a moment to consider the many near-invisible humans living their lives just a “sliding door moment” away from ours…

I don’t want to make light of this subject, so I hope no one will think this with me kicking this piece off with the trailer of the now super-dated film Sliding Doors.

For those who haven’t seen the film it poses the proposition of “What if…” in relation to the main character running for a train one morning and catching it in one “reality” while missing it in another, and the consequential life paths that lay ahead of each.

While it’s most likely a film that’s not going to make many top 100’s, the idea of the film is fascinating, and I’m reminded of it nearly every day on my morning walk to get coffee or to go to the gym or as I’m heading to the local train station.

Not far from where I’m living is an old, quite huge house. On first sight I thought it might be abandoned as it’s not in great shape — no garden, in need of repairs, scattered rubbish in the front yard etc

With its peeling paint and always-closed windows it looks like a somewhat sad, sleepy older man…which kind of makes sense as over time I’ve learned that it is a men’s hostel or some form of government-owned housing set up to assist men who find themselves on the wrong endof luck — who due to one or even several sliding door’s moments have ended up in need of safe and affordable accommodation.

Having not lived long in this neighbourhood, the first several times I passed the house I kept my head down and didn’t engage with any one of the various blokes who spend their time sitting on the porch or who I’ve seen coming or going from the house.

They are a liquorice allsorts mix of humans who seemingly cross every demographic imaginable — two mid-twenties African immigrants in ill-fitting shiny new suits you normally associate with Mormons and travelling salesmen; the thirty-something caucasian guy with the blonde mop of hair who sits much of the day wrapped up in a blanket as he chain smokes, all the while glued to his mobile phone; a much older grey-haired shaggy bearded feller who I’ve seen on more than one occasion staggering along the pavement, clutching a beer and talking to himself; the middle-aged middle-eastern dude who I see at my local cafe most mornings eating breakfast and downing coffee before he heads off to wherever he works.

One afternoon as I passed the house, for no specific reason I nodded and gave the briefest of smiles to shaggy beard as he shuffled by me. It was, admittedly, only an acknowledgement in passing but regardless it brought a returned smile and the tiniest twinkle from his crinkly eyes even as he continued with his in-depth conversation with himself.

Another day I offered a “morning” to Mr Middle Eastern, who replied in his thickly accented English, “Morning brother, have a good day, yeah?”

As a writer, and consequently imaginative type, these fleeting moments of connections with strangers made me wonder at the stories that led these men to the sliding doors moment which eventually propelled them to where they are now.

But more importantly as a human it made me super aware of how easy it is to effectively erase the lives of people around us.

How we can bustle through our daily lives oblivious to the many humans we bustle alongside.

And I’m not just talking about totally random strangers. I’m also talking about the barista who makes your coffee in the morning, the sales assistant at your supermarket or grocery store, the customer service staff at the train station, the busker on a street corner.

But at least those with more “normal” (whatever that even means) lives are often still hooked into their own communities so don’t necessarily need attention from the strangers they interact with on a daily basis — which doesn’t mean it can’t hurt to treat them more kindly, right? To actually acknowledge them, ask them about their day, crack a joke or just smile.

No, it’s more those on the fringes I have concern for.

Those men and women who maybe lived lives parallel to our own but who due to a sliding doors moment find themselves now wondering a path paved with hardship.

A community of souls who slowly fade into invisibility because we can’t relate to them; who we often judge without knowing anything about them; and who we even maybe fear because of what we assume about them.

People who don’t deserve to be invisible or outcast because of potentially something outside of their control — oh cruel Mistress, fate, of the sliding doors.

I’m not advocating you become besties with every soul you come across.

No one has the time or energy for that.

Let’s create more sliding doors moments because who knows the good that might come from them…

But if even once a week at the very least each of us acknowledged a stranger in some small way, I wonder what impact this might have to the lives of the marginalised and near-invisible?

The folk who ghost in the backgrounds of our lives but who might become more substantial if offered that momentary recognition of shared humanity.

Fellow humans whos lives might be changed in a sliding doors moment that our minor reaching out or recogniton might inadvertantly provide to shift them to another path.

Some may call this a random act of kindness.

I call it a chosen act of humanity.

Let’s create more sliding doors moments because who knows the good that might come from them…



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Young Apprentice AKA PB

Young Apprentice AKA PB

Writer, editor, content dude, digital disruptor. Politics. Arts. Tech. Travel. Food. Film. The Force. Digital Nomad. Citizen of the universe. Coffee. Always.