Well fellow Bloggers, I committed my first good deed of 2009 yesterday. While on a shopping spree in the city (I hate shopping and like to get it all done in one day if possible), I bought a homeless guy lunch at Subway. It's a pretty minor accomplishment, if you can even call it that, but at least I helped make one person's tummy a bit happier.
Waterloo doesn't have a lot of homeless folks and you get to recognize the ones you do see. (e.g. the Two Dollars guy, the Dreadlock guy). I've run into "Richard" before, most memorably last summer at the Gelato place. My sis was inside waiting in line with me and D was waiting outside with Neko (D disdains gelato...it's his fatal flaw). Richard was just leaving. Someone had bought him a big cone of gelato and he wore a look of absolute elation. As he was passing us we smiled at him and he thrust the cone in our faces and exclaimed, "It's Rum and Raisin! It's the best! Wanna try?"
My sister, quick thinker that she is, said, "Um, no thanks, I don't like rum and raisin." Me, I'm a bit slower on the uptake. I hate rum and raisin too, but my mind froze and I was racked with a wave of politeness. Wouldn't it be rude, I thought, to NOT taste it? So when Richard waved the cone under my nose again and said, "Oh go on, taste it," I said "Okay," and took a lick, much to the horror of my sister and later, my husband. But it made Richard grin a big semi-toothless grin, at least.
Anyways, I recognized him shuffling down King street wearing a sleeping bag yesterday. We exchanged greetings and I offered to buy him a coffee or sandwich. So we went to subway and he got their pizza (I didn't even know subway HAD pizza). Richard gently chided me when I looked skeptical about his menu selection. "Their pizza is wonderful, it really is. Plus you get to put whatever you want on it. It's a PERSONAL pizza!"
He was very articulate (despite having no front teeth) and gentle and said he used to work in the restaurant business. I had to hide a smile when he asked the lady behind the counter to please make sure to put lots of oregano and parmesan on top; Richard apparently likes his spices. He told me his favourite is curry, and he used to cook it all the time when he had a place to live.
The one thing that marred my otherwise pleasant experience was the way the staff at Subway treated Richard. Two ladies - maybe in their early 50's - were working behind the counter and they looked extremely alarmed when we came in. Maybe he goes there a lot,maybe he's given them a hard time in the past - I don't know - but when I was there, he was polite and soft-spoken. The woman behind the counter was abrupt and rude with him, barking her questions at him ("WHAT DO YOU WANT ON IT?").
It didn't seem to me that Richard made any more demands on her time than any other customer would have. For example, he asked the lady to please chop the tomatoes and onions before they went on his pizza as he has difficulting swallowing them whole; she looked at him like he'd asked her to stand on her head. She rolled her eyes, let out a huge sigh and proceeded to hack them up theatrically with her paring knife. I might have expected this behaviour from a surly 16 year old grocery clerk, but not from a mature woman at Subway.
Anyway, long story short, I filled up a Subway card with $10 (his suggestion since I don't like giving out cash), we shook hands, and I left. Richard was stuffing the pizza into his backpack as I walked out the door.
I'm not writing about this to make myself sound like a saint (cuz I ain't) or to be didactic (cuz I've walked past plenty of other homeless folks before). I just kind of felt good about Richard, and sad about the way he was treated by the Subway wenches. We don't have a lot of homeless folks that I've come across in the Kink, but I realize I've got to find some time and means to help out in my own community, where the sad, the sick and the poor aren't as easily visible. Wish me luck.