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Alone Together: Mimi Mok

May 14, 2020

I think I miss the TTC.

It’s weird because I really can’t say I have great memories of being on the TTC. The experience had been emotionally neutral, at best.

So I tried to figure out why.

A map of Toronto showing the stops along the TTC
“I miss the small daily gestures I perform to be one with a group of people I don’t know, the rituals that signal a collective order.”

I came across the work of archaeologist and anthropologist Monica L. Smith, a historian who does research on ancient cities and their household activities. In her view, cities are the first permanent places where people willingly live among strangers. Though cities are relatively new in our history, as a man-made construct it has enjoyed immense longevity, because cities never stop evolving.

Ancient cities, just like ours today, come alive from the interplay between People, Places, and the resultant Possibilities. Cities change because people are constantly adapting existing infrastructure to their needs, and new things are always built-in the footsteps of the old.

So what I miss is probably not the TTC per se. I’ve lived in cities all my life and for the first time, I have not had daily interactions with people I don’t know. I haven’t shared looks of resignation with strangers at a bus stop for a few weeks now. I haven’t been part of the pack on escalators during rush hour, walking past people who choose to stand still for a moment on the left. I miss the small daily gestures I perform to be one with a group of people I don’t know, the rituals that signal a collective order, however fleeting, is in place.

When my various roles in life were abruptly compressed and crammed into a one-bedroom apartment that is my personal space, it’s no longer obvious how my actions are still part of a bigger whole.

So I was relieved to find hope in Monica Smith’s work, for “if a city is never finished, then there is hope for making things better than what we inherited.” For as long as I’m a part of this city, it’s okay for me to stand still for a while, as long as the city doesn’t.

Cities: The First 6,000 Years” from The Long Now Foundation, Monica L. Smith
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— Mimi Mok

Mimi is the Business & Development Director at The Theatre Centre

Alone Together is a series of shared stories by The Theatre Centre. Over the next several weeks, our team is going to offer you some of our own personal joys, those things that nudge us, the arms that extend to us in the dark, those things that catch our hearts off guard. And we’d love to hear from you in return… what’s blowing your heart open these days?