I work with a woman. Well, to be fair, she isn't on the truck with me every day but she manages to keep the daily bullshit in one pen so to speak. She's what? 26 I think...
We chat. Of course you chat with coworkers...some you avoid. She talks a fair bit of politics, social sciences, the state of the union...I can relate.
Today she pipes up "Lance, do you think my face is getting wrinkles?"
I found it kind of funny.
I found it kind of sad.
20-something and she's wondering about this?
She's really pretty! She's fit, athletic, TomBoy, smart as a textbook, outgoing, on top of current issues, has her own fashion sense...and maybe...if the light is right...a wrinkle. Maybe.
This surprised me. It was out of left field for her. Shes so damned together in my limited perspective. What do I know...
So I saw Ray today. Ray is in his 60's but if you saw him, you'd probably guess a rough 70.
Ray used to sleep outdoors, but he "his bones got too old" so he applied, and got a room at the St. Helens in Vancouver. Could be worse by miles. He has his own kitchen area and "shithouse".
Ray pulls in disability each month. I won't bother filling your time with his story about how he got where he is.. suffice it to say, kids that never call, a wife that loathes him and a Government that dangles a carrot of hope in the form of "more help" under his nose.
So Ray, I like Ray. Ray talks about things how it is from his viewpoint. I bet I could spit in his face or slap him in the head and he'd ask "why'd you do that?"
Always a smile creasing his filthy face. Always half in the bag by 9:30 am when I see him. Always a story.
The place I work for can't "use" tinned goods that are dented. Health BS... (staff can bring them home to eat. Often we do....) In the back of my 5-ton truck, I've got 6 crates of canned goods. Name it, I've got it! Soups, sauces, fruits, veg, beans, ravioli...dented but fine.
I keep 'em on board for Red. I've introduced you to Red before. You need Red on your side in the DTES. If he doesn't get on with you, I pity you.
(Red...again, a dude on disability...weighs 346 with gimped knees. No dope, No booze, No gambling)
Red got me a cigar for my birthday last month. Think on that. A dude who lives in an infested SRO hotel buys ME a cigar. Shit...the brother remembered my birthday! He recalls my favourite food for crying out loud!
My friends. The invisible ones. The scumbags.
So back to Ray.
I see Ray today at 9:15 and he's shittered but in his typical great mood. The guy's eyes twinkle even though they're opaque and bloodshot.
I manage to manoeuvre the truck around Robson at Cardero without killing anyone but infuriating taxi and bus drivers. Screw them, I'm on a mission.
Big deal? U-turn on Robson. Suck it up! I signalled...
So I pull my headlight up to Ray's chin as he's sitting on a bollard with his cart full of empties. Ray is a Binner. A polite one. A successful one!
He beams...he recognized me. He trusts me more than I do. What if I misjudged?
"Ray you old buzzard, where have you been? I haven't set eyes on you for weeks"
"I got sick bad. I got heat stroke then I got sick from that rain. I don't have good heat at home. My clothes were wet. I was gonna go to St Pauls for the cough...but its 3 hours waiting. How are you?"
"Ray, how the hell can I complain when I talk with you? You know I feel bad if I do"
"We all have different problems Lance"
"Can I buy you a coffee Brother?"
"No thanks, I have my beer going."
I tell Ray about the tinned goods, he's thrilled! I allow him the pick of the litter and he grabs about 30 tins of various stuff. He keeps telling me how much money I've saved him...
Money. Commerce. Invisible trade for most of us.
Ray asked how my daughter was. He remembers meeting her. He says "you're still married right?" I tell him "barely" but regret the words the moment they slithered off of my tongue.
What the hell do I know of his life?..and I try to provoke pity for mine. Humour or not...how dare I?
I pull away through the alley and attempt a left turn onto Robson. A frail man that must be 110 is pushing a shopping cart across the Robson and the pedestrian light is count in down quicker than he wishes. I look, I cock my head and watch as the numbers count down from 10 as if to suggest this poor bastard's lifespan...I catch myself...tight throat.
I'm brought back to reality at the sound of a car's horn. An impatient dude in a Tesla is pissed that the Old Dude is holding him up by a few seconds.
I want a year of Jubilee. I want an even slate. I want the Fawn to graze with the Lion. I want Love.