Help Wanted

Written by Lord Lansdowne

I usually try to avoid society, not because I enjoy being anti-social, but mostly because interacting with it is as much fun as heading headfirst into a brick wall.

The other night, I was roaming happily down Queen Street, after meeting one friend, and I was looking for a phone in order to call another one up and arrange a meeting place. I started walking along the side of the street looking for a phone. Now in this day and age it seems that if you don't have your own phone, the only way to make a phone call is with a calling card. Your good old quarter sitting in your pants is not even good to buy yourself a candy.

Eventually I found two. Both were busy. So, I decided put myself there and wait, thinking it wouldn't be too long. I waited 35 minutes for them to be freed.

As I was waiting, two fine examples of the future generation came standing behind me.

The two girls (ravers) started making some annoying yet somewhat justified comments about the girl by the phone who was there talking as if she was in her living room.

Which made it hard for me to understand what the heck she was saying, since the beginning had got quite interesting and I was trying really hard not to give her my opinion about the whole situation she was talking about to her friend. The girl was one of those pretty looking things, the kind you don't get tired of staring at, and you can't help but wonder how she had managed to have a waist so small.

She kept talking on the phone about how she went to some party and people wanted to know all the negative stuff about some guy. It got quite interesting to hear the superficiality of the conversation and how she had got upset of her apparent friends' comments. She said this, in deep concentration, using the word "like" a lot, while holding her copy of Cosmo and her make up bag in the other hand.

I'm sure Cosmo carried some educational articles of the type "12 Exercises for a more uplifting bosom" or "Where to touch him where he has never been touched before", something which of course sent shivers down my back.

The two ravers girl of course, after having waited a total of 30 seconds started getting upset. Much like piranhas, that alone are harmless, but in a pack more ferocious than a group of feminists, began sending their oh-so-entertaining comments.

Okay, so Queen St. if not the first, is the second, busiest street in Toronto, which for reasons that just make no sense, doesn't have many phones. I'm sure if I had travelled for another 20 blocks, I would've found a different phone myself (just to wait for yet another fine example of future generation using it), but since phones are a first come first served basis, just wait and shut the fuck up.

And besides, everyone these days seems to have a cell phone, why don't they?

"Like, you know," said one "when I'm on a phone and I see people waiting, like, I make it quick" loud enough for the poor pretty girl to hear it."But no, some people" said the other "stand there with their pretty fucking dress and their tight little ass and fucking high heel shoes and just own the city!""Yeah, like, fuck everyone else, they think!"

Frankly, if I had to pick between who was better dressed, the girl on the phone would've won hands down. Okay, so ravers are just soooo cool, it hurts and I'm just waiting for the fashion police to come knocking on my door, but seriously folks, I've seen beggars better dressed. Elephant pants were never cool, and I just don't get why retro is so in.

Now, it's not because the girl on the phone was prettier than the two ravers behind me that I didn't mind waiting, but I didn't care. Someone was playing music behind me, with a good beat, lots of people going by displaying what's the latest way to dress and look cool, life was good and I was in an odd good mood. And of course the share of strange people that left the shrink a bit too soon, a constant reminder of just how sane I am. Besides, if in a rush to use the phone, you could probably find one.

I wasn't yet in my pissy, unusual mood and besides, saying something nasty to the two ravers would've got no point across. People like that have their brains so swollen by their ego and natural belief of being the best and most original crap in the universe, anyone that dares talk to them that ain't dressed likewise just ain't, shall we say, hip to be heard.

So I just turned around and started staring at them. With a blank look. Just staring. The kind of look you give to your neighbour's kids while holding your bolt action rifle and whispering a Latin chant. This must've made them feel quite uncomfortable, stare at each other for a while, and finally leaving, saying, I'm sure "What a freak!"

Peace at last, one of the phones frees up and I can make my 22 second long call to a friend and tell him where to meet me. I do all this while staring at the pretty girl, who now is starting to feel rather uncomfortable, and I wink to her, when I leave, making her go quiet for a second.

So I finally meet my friend, and we go to this tiny little Vietnamese restaurant and start talking business and other weird shyte, while sucking down noodles with meatballs, when society's finest comes knocking at my door again.

Now, I live in a pretty big city and I'm friendly to the average Joe. And while I don't mind encountering strangers on the road, I like to be left the fuck alone, whenever possible.

Woman enters and starts telling my friend, other people and myself how she's from Poland, has five kids and if we can spare five bucks.She says all of this while smoking a Malboro--inside the restaurant--and wearing a pair of brand-new Doc Marten boots, the ones that go up to your knee--they're a beautiful thing if you can pull them off wearing them. I certainly can't.

You know when you look at someone, and without this person even opening her mouth, you can already tell a lot about them? You know, they have that look that just says "dumb", "too much cocaine", "banged his head really heard when he fell from the high-chair". Or, when you encounter religious types, that ecstatic yet brainwashed look? Well, not this woman. She just looked sluggish and lazy but probably smarter than all of us at our table combined.

Her accent was anything but Polish.So I say "your accent is anything but Polish. More like somewhere from Newfoundland or around there". So I suggest she'd go to a shelter."All the shelters are packed!" she says.

Because I work in the social service sector, I have the fortune of knowing the ups and downs in season and where all the shelters in Toronto are, I told her who to call and about 6 different shelters that were in the area.

Granted, while we are in Canada and not too far from the North Pole, even in September it's nowhere cold enough to justify every single shelter being packed. Not at 8 PM anyway. I know how these things work.

Of course, she claims again, she has 5 children (she looked about twenty, so I guess that's possible), she's Polish and boo hoo she's a human being too and we don't care. I supposed I should have said "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal saviour and drinking buddy?" That would have got her moving.

"I'm a human being too" goes I, and I give her five dollar and I say "so what will that pay for tonight? Heroin? More cigarettes like the one you're smoking? Alcohol, perhaps? Or are you actually going to go to a shelter?". The guy sitting at the table across from starts howling and goes "If you're Polish, so am I!"

So we all start laughing and go back to our private conversations. She takes one big drag of her Malboro and suddenly goes on about this story of how her gay friend was beaten while he tried to pick up a straight guy and the straight guy also stole his $300 and all he had to offer her, with his head between his knees, was a cigarette.

"Uh uh" we all went. And we went back into our conversation.

"Okay, show's over" I go "can you now leave? There are people trying to breathe clean air in here" and she's about to leave, stops and starts telling my friend about her gay friend. This, while covering him with smoke. The Vietnamese waiter, a guy about four feet tall and with manly chest hair was trying to get her to leave, but she probably never even noticed he was there.

So I say out loud "seriously, call us cruel, but nobody here gives a shit, please leave us alone". After a hateful staredown, she finally leave. Geez. Most people know how to keep it brief.

Now, I am usually not mean. Well, okay, I am. However, if someone is in need, I more than gladly help them out. But I'm starting to really lose my patience with beggars. First of all there is a large network in this city to help those less fortunate. With the risk of sounding like I'm repeating what IMPROV said in his last article, if you want to get help, there is. You just have to go to it, since it doesn't come to you all by itself. Queen St. seems to be where 99% of beggars now beg (you encounter one every 50 metres).Not only does one become insensitive about it and tired of the same old stories ("my grandmother is sick and I need money to visit her"), but you also run out of change pretty quickly, and get a nasty comment if you got nothing to offer. Best part of it all, is the irony when you see, in the store's display windows behind them, large lettered signs that say "HELP WANTED".