Sometimes it’s easy. You pass someone in the street, or see them on the tram, and they’re instantly recognisable. A soapie star, a reknowned actor, a government minister, or some other high-profile person.
But what about all those countless people who pass you by who are not recognisable? Who are they? How many movers and shakers go unnoticed on the street among the other passers-by? People you’d never recognise because they never appear on TV or get their photos in the gossip columns. Perhaps the woman opposite you on the train wrote the newspaper article that you and thousands of others are reading this morning, that will later today force a change of government policy. Perhaps the bloke next to you at the traffic lights decided that your gas bill won’t go up this year. That man sitting having a coffee on the street might have determined the cost of your mobile phone.
Sometimes you’ll get a clue – they’re having a conversation, or carrying a document whose cover you can read. But for the most part they are the Unrecognisable Somebodies, people who are anonymous yet have a influence on little aspects of our lives. Particularly in a big city, and especially in the bustling streets of the city centre, these people are everywhere. But we might never know who they are.
But enough of this thoughtful crap. Who’s the most famous person you’ve seen in the street?
Hmmm. Off the top of my head, Cathy Freeman, Hugo Weaving, Josephine Byrnes, Ernie Dingo, Alan Fels. The Doug Anthony All Stars in full uniform waiting for a cab outside Elsternwick Station. And I was once in the queue for pies at the footy with the then deputy PM, Brian Howe.