I've been driving truck for a non-profit located in Vancouver BC for a year now. It's an odd job but I think I like it.
The gig has me going to various venders to pick up a variety of donations. I gain access to these generous businesses via loading bays and doors in alleys.
I prefer the randomness of the doors in the alleys to the impersonal big bay doors. The bay doors seem too sterile for me.
I meet all sorts of people in Vancouver alleys. On days off, I walk through local East Vancouver alleys rather than streets. Alleys don't lie. Trash has stories, derelict cars are full of someone's memories, even the graffiti is someone's truth inspight of my understanding of the words.
I notice the invisible people as I work. I wave or honk at first. Time of day stuff.
Slowly I let them get to know me as I take my breaks (if any) in alleys chatting with them...if they want to engage. Many can't seem to remember the language I'm trying to communicate with. Must be from lack of use. Invisible people have no voice.
Often I give the guys that chat a coffee or something sweet to eat.
You probably won't meet Ray, Gerald or John.
One day in between telling me how much he hates the Quebec Government, the well educated John blurts out with unnecessary volume: "I HAVE 8 FUCKING CERTIFIABLE MENTAL ILLNESSES"
I laughed out loud whilest smiling and told him that I may have 2 myself, 1 for sure.
John has a place to stay. We pay for it. It's a dump I can assure you. My guess is that John doesn't have access to a daily shower or laundry facilities. I take that for granted.
John scrounges recyclables "so he doesn't go crazy" or find trouble with "idle hands." He cashes in his bottles and cans then uses his money to buy food. He buys tinned goods usually and puts them into the food bank bin at his local Safeway. Sometimes he gives me case lots of goods he buys at a cheap outlet. He tells me to "make sure that the people who need this gets it."
I stand as close to John as he is comfortable with. I shake his hand which, incidentally is filthier than the glove he removes to grip my hand.
McDonalds has a gimmick where you buy any hot drink and you get a sticker on the cup. 7 stickers on the card gives you a free coffee or hot chocolate.
The other month John gave me 27 full cards to hand out to people I see. He finds the stickers on the cups that WE toss into the trash.
"YOU TELL THEM THAT THEY CAN HAVE A HOT CHOCOLATE IF THEY WANT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE COFFEE THEY WON'T TELL YOU THAT BUT THEY CAN HAVE HOT CHOCOLATE COFFEE ISN'T REALLY THAT GOOD FOR YOU" he shouts at me in one breath as a thick white foam accumulates around the corners of his stubbled mouth. John IS passionate I'll give him that!
I notice people cut a wide berth around us at the trash can as we speak about politics. I also notice the looks strangers give him, which to me appear like daggers of pity, disgust, shock and fear.
I like John. John makes me smile. John won't come for lunch...he has far to much to gather on his daily rounds.