The background characters in our personal movies

By: Kevin Thomas ~Copy Editor~

Over the winter break, I did quite a bit of thinking about the people whom I will probably never see again because the only conversation that I had with them was in line at the grocery store, waiting to check out. You know, the background characters in life, the extras in your movie.

I want you to do the same. These background characters are the people whom you only meet at the intersection, and just like perpendicular lines, you will never meet again. However, just because you will never meet them again doesn’t mean that they have to play the sole part of being someone that you met once. The effect of these people can last forever in your life, but only if you don’t brush them off as unimportant.

1.pngI was in New Orleans last year around Halloween with my friend Dan. He and I were riding around on the streetcar, exploring the city one evening, when a young guy in his mid-20s with sloppy brown hair sat down in front of us and turned around to make conversation. I found out that he was from Charlotte and that he worked for American Airlines, so he freely traveled to new cities all the time, spending one night in each place getting drunk and wandering around. He asked us how he could get to a graveyard that night because he wanted to get spooked while he was in New Orleans. Being tourists ourselves, we had no idea, and “Charlotte,” as we began to call him (we never learned his real name,) got off at the next stop and decided that he would just hop in an Uber.

I doubt that I will ever see him again, and I am completely fine with that. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t recognize him even if I did. Charlotte played his role in my life, adding flavor to the story of my journey in New Orleans and causing me to think more about exploring different places, without a care in the world about creating an itinerary for things to do when in a new place. Charlotte just did whatever he wanted. He wandered around, ignorant, and saw more of New Orleans than a person who had carefully planned everything would have.

It doesn’t have to be a person whom you have a conversation with that warrants extensive contemplation and thought. It could be anyone that you run into, anywhere. I was walking in the park one day thinking when I saw an old man walking his dog. The dog urinated on a tree, then sniffed the spot that she had wet, and the man grumbled to himself about the dog needing to move along. Then he looked up and said to himself, not even noticing that I was there, “Some people check their e-mail, but you always check your pee-mail,” and he cackled to himself way too loudly, in my opinion, at probably one of the worst jokes that I have ever heard.

Kevin Thomas is a first-year English and Philosophy double major. He is a copy editor for the Newswire from St. Louis.

But still, I couldn’t stop thinking about him for the rest of the day. The old man in the park, struggling to get his dog to move along at the speed that he thought was proper. The way that he laughed at his own joke that he probably thought was incredible. I wondered if he went home and told his significant other that joke, and they just shook their head and smiled at his unfunniness, smiled because they loved him regardless.

I wondered if he even had a significant other, or if he lived alone with his dog. She might have been his only friend.

I don’t know anything about that old man in the park in the same way that I pretty much don’t know anything about Charlotte, and I am fine with my ignorance. It’s more fun that way. I get to wonder about the mysteries of who they are, why they do what they do and I get to decide whatever I want about them. They can be a hero or a villain, a moralist or a degenerate.

I want you, reading these thoughts of mine, to do the same when you come across someone like that. Use your creativity. Make these people that you don’t know, and never will know into something great. Let yourself be swept away in the wonderment of which you imagine them to be, and the lessons that you can draw from the short time that you spent in their presence.