BENEFITING: COVENANT HOUSE NEW JERSEY INC
Let me take you back to the 7th of January, 2011, to tell you about my encounter with the famous comedian.
Living in a city like Vancouver means that people are always on the go; they’re always hopping on and off the bus in search for their next destination, or to keep on track with the metropolitan life our city proudly glows with. While riding the bus with Mags, Lizardo, and Magday, I couldn’t help but notice everyone just staring straight ahead, listening to music, reading a book, looking over some papers, texting/talking on the phone, or just staring blindly into space. True, I was only talking to the group I was with, but I couldn’t help but feel strangely shut off from everyone. No smiles, no expression - just the quick hop on and hop off of people running to meet time. Eyes that reflected no warmth but were protected by an invisible barrier. I’m not saying that complete strangers should talk on the bus, but there’s also the simple act of being … alive. I don’t really know what I’m saying, but maybe this will make sense later. Maybe.
We got off by the Starbucks and Chapters and hurried inside to escape from the cold. Magday and Lizardo went together to Shoppers Drug Mart after to buy Tylenol, while Mags and I stayed behind and caught up on old times.
Thus the famous comedian enters: a homeless guy who lives around the area. He strolled by from the back and plopped himself down on the chair opposite to mine, and interrupted the conversation I was having with Mags. His interjecting “Hello”, quickly got out attention. I don’t dislike the homeless, since I know a few from the soup kitchen I volunteer at. But once this guy came in, my guard was up. I was a bit annoyed that he casually interrupted the conversation with my dear friend; but at the same time, I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, since I figured he just wanted to talk. He introduced himself as a famous comedian from Vancouver, and he asked us why there were so many girls coming into Starbucks. I told him it was because school was off, and the Starbucks we were at was one of the closest ones to the school; plus since it was a Friday, everyone was just chilling and relaxing. I think I was on the point of rambling, but then the white mocha frapp in my hand kept me from blubbering out what was on my mind. It was especially hard not to make eye contact with him, since it felt extremely rude just to stare down at the floor. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but think something bad could happen to us. He continued the conversation saying he thought it had to do with the hockey game going on tonight, or the various events happening uptown. I couldn’t help but think he was a bit clueless, and I didn’t like the way he was looking at me; but I guess it’s because Mags and I were both wearing our uniforms: and I’ll admit that wearing maroon in the crowd marks you conspicuous (I sincerely hope that the colour of our uniforms will change in the near future. Most likely not, but hopefully the next generation will have it better than us.) Anyways, Mags said we should go and see how Magday was doing, so we left - in a bit of hurry. We were both pretty shaken by the guy, but we felt better once we left the coffee shop. It was only when we were a block away that I realized I left my wallet.
It’s actually a bit funny since I stopped in my tracks and realized that it was still on the table by our seats in the coffee shop. I felt like whacking my head on the pole next to me. Maggie and I both looked at each other and jumped to the conclusion that the guy we were talking to robbed my wallet. You could blame me of immature and stupid thinking, but honestly: if you were in the same situation, what would you have thought? We walked back, with me frantically worrying about the money and cards inside, and Maggie reminding me to stay hopeful and optimistic because expecting the worst possible scenario could jinx the situation (At least, thats what I think she was saying. We were walking pretty fast while trying not to bump into people). The only thing that was running through my mind was the fact that I didn’t want to lose that wallet because it was a gift from Tashya, and that I needed the rest of the money inside for donations and the essentials.
Anyways, once we entered the Starbucks I went straight to the seat where we were previously sitting, and looked through the table. It was empty, devoid of the wallet I had placed underneath the newspaper. I felt like banging my head against the nearest table. Then the same guy strolls by, holding a cup of coffee and telling me that he had just turned the wallet in back to the counter. To my surprise (and Maggie’s), we got the wallet back, with everything inside untouched. Now at this moment I felt extremely guilty - there I was, standing in Starbucks with my lost wallet given to me by a mere homeless man I judged on his fishy behaviour. I felt so, so guilty for what I thought about him earlier that I offered to buy him a drink (it was the least I could do), but he shooed me off with a smile and told me to stay safe and have a good day. Mags, Lizardo and I bussed back to school and spent the remaining hours there.
Even until now, I’m still thinking about that guy, and the incident himself. It was already running through my thoughts from the bus ride back, even while Mags and Lizardo were talking. You know those moments when you feel like there’s an epiphany coming but you haven’t reached it yet but you know it’s there? Well, that’s how I’m feeling right now. You may hold me in considerable doubt for thinking that this one incident with a homeless man really impacted my life, but truthfully, it did. You read about these kind of incidents in books - how a careless person loses something valuable, and a random stranger comes along and returns the lost item. Reading it isn’t the same as living it - the experience itself is much more richer in reality. I can’t help but wonder what that guy is doing right now - is he still inside Starbucks, drinking his coffee? Or is he out in the streets, wandering around and looking for a safe place to sleep. Or is he meeting up with his buddies and telling them about the dumb girl who left her wallet in Starbucks? I can’t help but realize how I lucky to be living this Fate. I have a safe place to go home to, I have my mom who prepares the food I eat, and I have family and friends that support me. Life doesn’t seem so real until moments like these come along.
I hope that guy is safe, and that he’s not out in the cold. And it’s thanks to this incident that I’ll be doing more background research/campaign awareness on homeless-ity in Vancouver. I volunteer at J.J.'s soup kitchen (along Saint Patrick's Parish on Main Street) every other weekend, and just being there makes me want to do something about an issue that's been going on for a long time. I know some people say that this problem will never be solved, but yeah - I think I’m hooked. I'd rather take a few baby steps to combat this issue instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching the world go by, day by day.