Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Incident on Quadra Street

When I am in Victoria, I like to attend church at Christ Church cathedral to reconnect with my Inner Anglican, experience superbly-crafted liturgy, and be deafened by the new pipe organ. Afterwards, I like to stroll down Quadra to my favourite market square, which features a grocery store, London Drugs, and a fast-food Japanese restaurant which offers free barley tea to customers.

One Sunday in June 2006, I wandered into London Drugs after church to take my blood pressure. I picked up some stuff to justify my presence, and made my way to the grocery store.

On the way, I sat down beside a lady who was selling The Victoria Street Newz (a surprisingly professional publication by and for street people, which airs their issues and allows their vendors to earn a few dollars), and we talked briefly while I hunted through my change.

This particular grocery store is my favourite food store in the world. It has a coffee machine right inside the door, and a bar with stools to sit and enjoy a break. There are also little round tables and chairs outside for snacking and people-watching. Besides the deli counter and any number of ready-to-eat food items, there is a separate fish counter at least twenty feet long. The floral section is a kaleidosopic jungle of cut and potted flowers, notably enormous roses.

Outside the door, a bare-chested man was lurching back and forth, trying to bum a smoke, becoming more frustrated by the moment.

"Here," a woman sitting on one of the chairs called out. "I'll give you a smoke."

He approached her, hardly able to believe his luck.

"Sure I'll give you a smoke," the woman said. "Somebody just gave me five bucks." The two of them started chatting affably.

I reflected on the fact that down-and-out people seem to be more generous about sharing their good luck than my own social circle. As I passed them, I got another look at the man, and realized that he was a pretty fair specimen of manhood and would clean up well. Perhaps this lady had motives other than generosity.

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