Just My Luck

Yesterday, after facilitating the Science and Philosophy Book Club discussion on Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, at the Centre For Inquiry, I went into the subway to buy tokens for the first time since the new-year fare hike.

As I stood before the dispensing machine, stunned by how little change I could expect back from a $10 bill, a fairly normal-looking human approached me with three subway tokens in his hand – which is all you get for $10 now. He asked, as people rushed around on all sides like a scene out of the cinematic masterpiece 2012, “Are you about to buy three tokens?” I started to say that I’m not going to be suckered out of – how much? He took advantage of my bewilderment and said something about having too many tokens and not enough cash for a burger.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker

My civil language must have provided him such a window that he had a clear view of my nature, which is so far from doing harm that I suspect none. I dipped into my pockets and pulled a fiver out of one and what may have been $6 in coins out of the other. He took the money from my hands and put the three tokens in my palm as if he was helping me lighten my burden. As I was about to let loose with a ferocious, “Hey…”, he deftly clutched a hefty bunch of low-denomination coins (mine) from his hand and plunked them into my other palm. Now my “hey” was ready. I said he owed me more change than that. He added a quarter saying, “Oh right, sorry. There you are; exact change.” And he politely vanished into the crowd.

When I say “vanished”, I mean he was more determined to split than I was to shout him down and get back what may have been about a buck fifty he’d scammed me out of. I just watched him go. This is “Toronto the good”. I was not offended but simply bamboozled, both that he would go to such lengths for pocket change and that I found myself letting him do it. I was fascinated by both of our behaviours.

How is this “lucky” for me? In the following two ways.

  1. I had a student from one of those beautiful beachy places in South America which I am privileged to have visited and hope to see again. He described a day he was walking on the beach in his swimming shorts and flip-flops – nothing to steal. Someone pulled a gun on him, in a public place in broad daylight, and said he wanted those stylish shorts. My student said he knew what happens to he who hesitates. He ran home naked and alive.
  2. For a mere buck fifty or so I got a priceless lesson. Don’t trust anyone ever; every person on this Earth is evil scum and you can never drop your guard for a second! The next person who says, “Excuse me,” to me is going to get a ferocious kick in the balls (oh, he’ll have balls, because it takes balls to be that low.)

That’s me, lucky and still learning.

3 Comments

Filed under conscious consumption, language, Optimism & Inspiration

3 responses to “Just My Luck

  1. Jadesmom

    I hope the tokens worked.

  2. The first one worked. I may keep the other two as reminders of
    1. the threat posed by all strangers, and
    2. how inconsequential the harm is.
    There’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

  3. So – I read the review of ‘The Stuff of Thought’ and it seems to me from Saletan’s observations, and quotes of Pinkers writing, that Pinker thinks and writes much as you do. In fact even Saletan’s review could have been written by you. This sort of stuff is right/write up your street.

    Re. small time con artists – why would you suspect him when you are not a small-time thinker? So if something similar occurs, it doesn’t mean you’re gullible. You simply don’t think in such petty and infra dig terms. Is this rationalization? Or Pinker-think? Or a fact? Term it as you will – you might sprain your ankle if you kick the next one in his balls, as they will probably be small, hard and very small change indeed.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s