Lima Al-Azzeh

Is it raining courtesy in Vancouver?

In Vancouver Events on February 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm

"Girl and Umbrella" captured by Ninja M. March 20, 2009 in Downtown Vancouver

In Japanese culture the umbrella serves as a symbol for love. Lovebirds’ innocent doodles consisted of writing their names under a drawing of an open umbrella, protecting them against the elements. This image, in both its charm and simplicity, reminded me of two random acts of genuine kindness that I was fortunate enough to bear witness to this week (both featuring umbrellas). These little gestures were far from the requisite courtesy expected by society, such as giving up your seat to an elderly person on the bus, they were signs that perhaps altruism does exist, and I had a distinct feeling that they would have been carried out, whether I was watching or not.

Random Act of Kindness the First
On a an extremely rainy weekend night, I was standing on the corner of Esplanade and Chesterfield waiting for the light to turn. The person already standing there was a young Asian guy, dressed to the absolute nines and looking like he sweats money. His outfit was put together with intention, specific attention was paid to every little detail: the pattern of the shirt, the buckle on his belt, the styling of his hair. He was speaking into his head set as he held a very dapper looking gentleman’s umbrella. I stood there in heels, a dress and my $10 Shoppers Drug Mart half broken umbrella. This guy was better groomed than I was.

I hadn’t notice that there was a woman standing a few feet behind us under the shelter of an awning. As the traffic light began to turn, hinting at the impending change in the pedestrian crossing signal, the woman dashed out from under the awning but unfortunately, had to wait a little longer. She didn’t see that the traffic light included an advanced left-turn signal.

Without a word, not even a slight hesitation, the young Asian guy, still casually speaking into his headset, simply approached the woman and sheltered her with his umbrella.

She was completely taken aback.

As was I.

It was a completely thoughtful gesture, pronounced in its simplicity. He continued to speak into his headset without so much as acknowledging the woman, as though sharing your umbrella with a complete stranger was the most mundane thing you could do with your day. It was clear that this young man wouldn’t boast about this to his friends, or make a special mention of his unbelievably gracious gesture to his family (probably not even to his mother), but it clearly made a great impact on the lady, appreciatively dry, and myself.
Random Act of Kindness the Second

The second act took place a couple of nights ago as I was disembarking the seabus.
I’ll confess that I noticed the two especially ragamuffin-looking skateboard kids sitting across from me, with their long hair, bushy beards and seriously unkempt clothing. They stood out in stark contrast against the majority of neatly suited up professionals commuting home after another day of work.

Though I didn’t pay much more attention to the pair of young men (I didn’t even eavesdrop on their conversation like I normally would) they proved to be the most considerate pair on the ferry.

As transit goers made their way off the seabus in the typical lemur scramble towards the off ramp, an older man’s umbrella slid off the top of his briefcase without him noticing. All of a sudden, the two boys started running, they were even farther behind the gentleman than I was, and the one who got there first swooped up the umbrella and continued to bob and weave through the crowd in an effort to catch up with the now umbrella-less man.

I rounded the corner and spotted the two young skateboarders tapping the sharply dressed man (tweed coat, silk scarf, loafers and all) on the shoulder and returning his umbrella to him. They barely stopped to exchange words before the skateboarders went off on their merry way, acting as though it was nothing.

Just in time too, the hail storm furiously descended only moments later.

Perhaps these little instances were expressions of love and respect towards other humans, or maybe these boys have simply lived in Vancouver long enough to never underestimate the value of keeping dry in extremely temperamental weather.

*A semi-related aside: my coworker showed me the most hilarious, completely useful, website sure to save me a lot of trouble whenever I’m wondering, “Is it raining in Vancouver?

  1. Lima — these are such wonderful stories! I publish a regular roundup of transit links and stories from around Vancouver on the Buzzer blog, and I’m definitely going to link to your post in the next one πŸ™‚


    Jhenifer @ TransLink

    • Hi Jhenifer! Apologies for not replying sooner, somehow you wound up in my spam filter. Comment fail! Thanks for picking up this post. I ride the seabus every day and am a Transit aficionado, no cars here! Saw you’re leaving The Buzzer on Mat Leave, how exciting! Congratulations and keep in touch when you get back πŸ™‚

  2. I’ve been clearly away from home for too long, although it rains heavily in London (where I currently call home), it seems that the weather here lacks the same kindness manifested in the raindrops pouring down on VanCity.

    These are such nice stories, I do think Vancouverites are nicer than people living in a lot of other cities.

    • Thanks for stopping by Tracy! If only to reminisce πŸ˜‰ I haven’t spent any significant time in London, but do let us know if you see any rain-induced random acts of kindness! So far, those were the only two I have been privy to in Vancouver, but I’m sure lots more happen on a regular basis. Wonder if the kindness gets more rampant as the weather gets more severe … that would be an interesting study!

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