One of my favourite directors is Jacques Tati (1902-1982). He directed several films using broad, visual clues and brilliant physical humour. ( Just watch "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and you'll know where Mr. Bean got his ideas. ) Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned from Tati, came, not from his movies, but from an audio clip of an interview he gave in California shortly before he died. I can't remember the exact words, but the jist of his effort was that entertainment is found, not only in the theatre. The most wonderful stuff happens right out in public; next to you in a waiting room, shopping for grapes, or simply navigating humanity wherever.
Recently, I had settled myself into a window counter seat in a popular coffee joint in Toronto. I sat watching people and cars going by when I sensed someone scuttling into the seat next to me. Now, through the unspoken rules of human contact, there is a window of opportunity that you have to engage someone in conversation, or even just acknowledge their presence. I missed it and sat, like a moron looking straight ahead. I had to bite my lip as I tried to figure out what was going on by the sounds I was hearing. Bags were tipping over, chairs were being dragged; it was like she was coming in to sit down but she had to manage several dozen unruly grapefruits before she could rest. I gathered that she was short and wearing a big coat. There was a possibility that she worked at a circus, or she was related to a cabbage( who am I to judge?). She persisted and finally settled into her coffee and the view.
I sat for a minute and then became determined to chat. I didn't want to be one of those cold Torontonians so I feverishly searched for an ice-breaker. "Eyes at one o'clock; two police on horses. Green light on the icebreaker!" I leaned over, still looking at the horses; "Aren't they just beautiful?" And for the better part of an hour, I had the loveliest conversation with a gorgeous older woman, a grandmother from Montreal, here visiting her daughter. 'Turns out she was buying several bags of coffee beans, not the numerous grapefruits I had thought. And yes, she was short, but classy as the day is long. Not a circus character by any means. I hated to leave. So it was a wonderfully entertaining hour, imagined, in reality, and in the hilarity of the contrast between them. Thanks Jacques!