101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 100

I think today might have been the first actual rejection I’ve received from a stranger, but I’m still not entirely sure if it counts. The two men were working in the film industry so I’ll script the initial interaction in scenes.

Act 1: Two men are sitting down outside. I approach one, asking him if he’ll share his story with me.

“Sorry, young lady. I’m kind of incognito.”

I told him that I could uphold his anonymity. People who want to remain anonymous still have interesting stories to share, after all. His friend calls him Big Al. Big Al has a triangular white beard.

Act 2: Big Al grabs his pack of cigarettes, making them visible. “You can talk to my friend over here”, he said, glancing at the man beside him.

Up until now, Big Al’s friend, sitting less than half a metre away from us, hasn’t so much as acknowledged the conversation that’s been going on. He’s completely absorbed in his phone. “You look busy”, I said, staring unapologetically at the phone that stood between us.

“Busy with this?” he said, lifting his phone up like it were a useless toy. “It’s a waste of time”, he said. His name is Chris.

Act 3: Chris and I start chatting. Big Al stays for a few moments before excusing himself, presumably for a smoke.

I had caught the two of them on their break. My assumption is that Big Al just wanted to smoke and didn’t want to be rude by doing it in front of Chris and I. Being a part-time asthmatic, I could appreciate this. Having spoken to two strangers over the last hundred days who started smoking mid-conversation was a challenge for me, and I can appreciate Big Al’s discretion. But this is just a theory. Maybe he just didn’t trust me. Maybe he just didn’t feel like talking. And I’d continue to speculate, as futile as it can be, if I weren’t so eager to share Chris’s story with you.

Chris was on set to help with the filming of the brand new television series, “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce“. Living under as many rocks as I do, I couldn’t quite appreciate the level of fame of the stars in the show. And I didn’t care. I was more interested in Chris’s story.

Chris has two dogs: one named Gizmo and the other named Rick Astley. (I wonder how often he gets them to roll). “I didn’t name them myself”, he assured me. “I kind of inherited them from my girlfriend.”

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Chris works on the behind the scenes stuff: lighting, staging, planning, strategizing. One of the biggest challenges he’s faced at work is manoeuvring the props. He told me about a time when they had to get giant lights on top of Grouse Mountain. They were over 400 pounds and it was literally a huge problem.

I asked him how he and his team persevered to make it happen. “Gotta get it done”, he said.

I asked him if he’d faced any big challenges in his personal life. “It would take two days just to even begin talking about the challenges I’ve faced”, he said, looking down, as though seeking atonement.  I didn’t prod.

Chris told me about how difficult work-life balance is in the film industry. It’s difficult to maintain personal relationships when you’re working those kinds of jobs. “The way I see it”, he said, “I’m not living to work, I’m working to live.”

I asked him how he manages to balance everything, and he said he’s started working only three to four days a week now.

He said he’s not interested in acting and being on the big screen,  although once upon a time he’d aspired differently. “If someone on set approached me and asked me to be the star of the show, though”, he continued, “I’d probably do it.”

His advice? Without hesitation, he said, “be nice to people. Everyone could use a little kindness, and the world could always be a little nicer.”

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