Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRIP (10/18/18)
TITLE: Hearing the City
By Jack Taylor
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Fortunately, I had Shaley with me as a back up in case of surprises. She was my overprotective older sister determined to guard me through “my worst nightmare.”
A specialist appointment was the big cause of my foray into the concrete and steel jungle. We took the Greyhound and Shaley became my tour guide. “We’re passing a Walmart shopping center. It’s like a giant concrete block with hundreds of cars outside. Mom was going to take you there once but she decided there was no point in you trying to worm your way through a mob who were there getting things they probably didn’t need.”
I put my headphones on to listen to the latest Newsboys but she’d pull one side off once in a while to give me another update. “We’re passing a town with a giant hockey stick; a giant beaver; a giant dinosaur; a giant duck. Another McDonald’s; Wendy’s; Taco Bell.”
The world was a place of smells, sounds, textures and tastes. I was eager to add to my encyclopedic knowledge of all things human.
When Shaley tugged me off of the bus there was not a farm smell in sniffing distance. My favourite phrase was “what’s that?”
“What’s that skunk cabbage smell?” “Marijuana, stop staring.” “I can’t see anything.” “They don’t know that.”
“What’s that food smell?” “All kinds of things – popcorn, sushi, burgers, kimchi, grilled veggies, fries, ice cream – I don’t know – I’m not even sure what you can smell.”
“What’s that voice?” “What voice? Oh, it’s the stoplight telling us to wait.” “Why is it telling us to wait?” “So we don’t get run over.”
“What’s that rolling noise?” “I don’t know, a bus, a truck, a car – watch out, it’s a skateboarder, stupid kid, watch where you’re going.”
I was used to flat but the city seemed to go up or down. We were walking upstairs or downstairs. Up a hill or down a hill. And everywhere it was like mashing together the crashing roar of ocean waves, the whine of a jet engine, the banging of a rock band, and the whir of the combines at harvest time.
Everything had a bell, a horn, a beeper, a ringtone. Every one in the world seemed to be talking to people who weren’t even around. “Who are they talking to?” I asked Shaley. “How am I supposed to know,” she said. “They’re on their cell phones talking to people somewhere else.”
“Why aren’t they talking to the people around them?”
“People don’t talk to each other in the city. That’s just the way it is.” In place of talking the incessant pounding of jazz, rock, country, and pop mingled to fill in the gaps where silence might have nestled.
On the public transit, we were standing shoulder to shoulder like sardines on end in a can. The rocking and rattling of the rumbling train muffling the noise of traffic outside kept the packed car from being silent. Then the computer voice announcing the next stop. “Main. Central. Broadway.”
I asked the same question. “Why isn’t anyone talking to the people around them?”
“I told you, people don’t talk to each other in the city.”
“We could talk to them about Jesus.”
“Shhh! No one wants to hear what a country boy has to say about Jesus.”
“We could talk to each other and let them overhear.”
Near the specialist’s office I heard a harmonica playing out of tune. “What’s that about?” I asked. “It’s a beggar, a homeless guy, a street person – don’t slow down, he’ll think you’re going to donate something.” “Why don’t we give him something?” “He’ll probably just use it for drugs.”
The office building for the doctor had a wonderful glass rotating door that swooshed as it sucked me in from the cold and spat me out into the warmth. I heard it right away. “Christmas,” I said.
“Christmas music – Silent Night.”
“Stupid people, it’s not even Hallowe’en yet.”
“I’m glad they’re playing it.”
“I was starting to think that maybe there was no room for God in the city.”
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