Ottawa, so polite, crisp and neat. Growing up in the city of the government, one knew there was a pulse that was different, everyone lived by a different code.
It is on cold, crisp days, that I remember, one lone cyclist that I used to great every morning at the bus stop!
My routine, was to wake up at 5:30am hop on the bus, go to the gym, get ready for work, then wait for the bus at 8am. Every morning without fail, a beaming smile would flash, a gentleman with a mustache, on a bicycle. At first, it was a little bit of a spectacle, there were no bicycles downtown, just commuters in spandex. That smile, was contagious, you couldn’t help but smile back.
On the days I missed the bus, I would put my bag over my shoulder, and walk the 30 minutes to work, and somewhere along that walk, I would end up spotting that same mustached man on a bicycle.
You see, Ottawa is a small town acting like a city. When you grown up in it, you realize that everyone has 3 degrees of separation, and at 8am, regulars in the downtown core know you, politely great you, and let you on your way. The vibe changes only slightly when the house is in session, and, if you are a political nut, you can spot every MP, and know where all the liberal, conservative, NDP watering holes are. Ottawa never really changes.
That man on the bicycle, was non other than Jack Layton. No matter what your political leanings are or were, seeing the same person in a full suit riding his bicycle to and from parliament hill, to various meetings around downtown, made you smile. In a city where no one breaks the code,, and all MP’s take taxis, Mr. Layton made his bicycle adventures part of the scene. Everyone greeted him, he would stop to shake people’s hands, he would stop and talk to the homeless man on Sparks street, he would smile at every single person, for some inexplicable reason, even the bus drivers would slow down, open the door and shout out a hello to him, and for a regular in the downtown scene, he would say good morning to me.
So, on a cold, crisp, Movember, as I am reminded of how contagious someone’s happiness is, I remember the mustached stranger in Ottawa, and remember that a smile can bright up anyone’s day!