Photo by John Donne.
Longtime Megaphone vendor, former taxi driver, and avid cyclist Sid Bristow wrote several brief personal essays during his time in Community Journalism 101. “Welfare Wednesday” paints a humourous portrait of the spontaneous community formed in the early-morning monthly lineup for income assistance cheques:
It was a typical rainy welfare day when I discovered at 6:45 a.m. that I never got my welfare cheque. I lined up with my book on how to play poker at 7 a.m. to see what was wrong.
At the top of the stairs was a homeless guy sleeping, a good spot out of the wind and rain. I was at the bottom of the stairs beside a drunk guy who was being aggressive. It’s funny, the look you get when they realize they should get a new victim. (If I was on the internet, now would be the time to say LOL).
Just ahead of me was a guy smoking crack and saving spots for people, a no-no in any lineup and it gave the drinker a new target. A friendly young man behind me was sharing drinks of what he said was vodka in a water bottle. I think it was rice wine, though, judging by the reaction of the two who tried it.
Another well-dressed guy needed a cigarette paper but the only one available had no glue on it. He took it and rolled a joint. That was when the drunk guy could not find his false teeth that he had kept taking out and showing us. His friend checked his pockets and couldn’t find them.
This kept us entertained for about 15 minutes when he found them on an inside pocket.
In a span of an hour and 15 minutes, each of us, carving out our turf in our own way, had gotten to know each other and started laughing.
Finally at 8:30 a.m. the doors open and they let us in. I had forgotten to fill out my stubs and they would mail me my cheque. So much for breakfast.