Before I Die – 6 November 2013

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,




6 November 2013

“Good morning Carl, Sandy. Were you able to phone Joy yesterday?”

“No, I didn’t speak to her by phone, but I talked to some of her friends. She’s okay. They said something about her having to help somebody. I didn’t get all the details. She Should be down here, though. Remember that day when it was minus eight. I didn’t want to come down, but people expect me. If I don’t show up they think that I don’t need the money, so next time they’ll just pass me by.”

“What did you do when you were younger, Chuck, before you were in a wheel chair?”

“The ordinary things. I was married, raised a couple of kids. Worked at a bunch of different jobs, got in a car accident, then another accident.

“I didn’t have much education, but it didn’t matter in those days. Jobs were a dime a dozen. I did have enough education to get a job with National Defense. I was clerking then, made my way up to Clerk Two. I’d been there about two and a half years, when the government started its cut backs. I didn’t get a raise or a promotion or anything, but they gave me the checks to deliver to the top brass. They got bonuses, raises, promotions. I got so mad I quit right on the spot. Looking back, I should have held onto that job.

“See down the street there. That brick building, it used to be a bowling alley. I can’t remember the name. I hate when that happens… The Maple Leaf Lanes, that’s what it was called. I used to bowl there. A job came up for a Pinner, I applied for it and I got it. So, for a while, that’s what I did — pinning.”

I asked, “What do you mean, pinning?”

“People never understand. Before there were automatic pin setters. The pins had to be set by hand. That was my job as a Pinner.”

“A pin setter,” I said, “I understand now. I had that job when I was young. I used to set for five pins and ten pins — a penny a pin.”

“I just set five pins. There was this guy that came in, Goldman, you’ll see his name on a lot of these buildings. He was changing offices and asked me and about six of my friends if we’d help him move. He said he’d pay us six dollars a day, for the whole week. That sounded pretty good, so we moved him. At the end of the week he gave us each two bucks. He said, ‘Get lost, that’s all you’re getting!’ Were we mad! There wasn’t much we could do, but when we got downstairs we saw his shiny, new Cadillac parked beside the building.  What we did to that car — there wasn’t much left of it by the time we finished. It didn’t get us our money, but we sure felt good.

“I’ve had other jobs. I worked at a printing plant where they made the plastic covers for telephone books. You know the ones, with all the advertising on them. We did them for Perth, Dunrobin, Almonte, all the surrounding cities. My job was to pick up the covers after they’d come through the printer. I’d hang them on a rack to dry. That’s all I did, all day long. Not very challenging, but wasn’t a bad job.

“Then I was in a car accident. I applied for disability, because I couldn’t work, being stuck in a wheel chair like this. I was assigned a worker, we did all the paper work. My friends were getting disability checks, but I wasn’t getting one. This dragged on for over two years. I stormed into my worker’s office, pounded my fist on the desk, swore at her and demanded my money.  Well sir, she had a fit — tearing her hair out, went right nuts. She shouldn’t have been in that job. Turned out my claim hadn’t even been filed. She was just sitting there waiting for retirement.

“I was assigned a new worker. He looked at my papers, arranged an appointment with a psychiatrist — that was regulation —  and said everything would be good to go. He couldn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t get my check.

“I went to the psychiatrist’s office. He must have been one of those hundred-dollar an hour guys. He was in the Meridian Building, top floor, penthouse. I can’t imagine what kind of rent he’d have to pay for a place like that. Anyway, I was early for my appointment. I could see him through the glass. He could see me. I waited, finally he came out, said his receptionist was late, but I could start by filling out some papers. They needed my Social Insurance Number, my Ontario Health card number, stuff like that.  I wasn’t told anything in advance, so I said to him, ‘I don’t have my cards with me, but I’ll do the best I can.’. I completed the forms and gave them to him. He asked, “Did you remember all these numbers, are you sure they’re right.’ I said, ‘They’re right. Check them if you want to .’ He was on the phone for a few minutes. When he came back he  said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. Why are you coming to see a psychiatrist?’ I told him about the disability claim. He said, ‘Sure, I’ll sign your forms for that.’ Within two weeks, I had my first check. Damned government, two and a half years I waited. There was no back pay.’

“Now, I try to save a bit of money so I can have a pizza every once in a while. I like to go to movies. I’m going to see Ironman when it comes out. I go  to a few hockey games.  I’m really a fanatic about hockey. It cost me a job one time. I was working in a warehouse.  The Canada Russia hockey Series was on then. They asked us to stay late, that would have meant I’d miss the final game. I said to my boss, ‘To hell with that. I’m going home to watch hockey.’ I have all those old games recorded on tape. I watch them every so often.

“There was a charity auction one time arranged by CHRO,  and some of the other television stations. I’d heard from a friend that there was going to be an autographed, Larry Robinson, hockey jersey up for auction. That was when he played for the Canadiens. The starting bid was two hundred dollars. I bid two ten. Nobody else bid, so I got it. I was talking to his family later they said they had hoped that the jersey would’ve fetched over a thousand, but I’d won it honestly.

“At another auction I got an autographed, Vladivslav Tretiak,  jersey. You remember him? Played for the Russian National Team. He was considered the best goalie who ever lived. I’d like to sell those jerseys if I could, but I’m no good at internet stuff.  If I could sell them, I’d be set. You can be sure I wouldn’t be out here. I’d have the money for the operations that Sandy needs. Before I die, I’d arrange for a good home for her.”

I asked, “Don’t you have some friends who could arrange that for you?”

“I’ve got  friends and family who have offered, but I don’t trust them.”


  1. You write beautifully, and your people walk off the page to enter our lives. I hope your blogs become a book because many readers need to now about this kind of life style.


  2. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    Can you look at a person who has no roof over their heads and walk by and go to your warm cosy home with no pain in your conscious. If you are, then you have to learn how to be human again.


  3. Gator Woman says:

    We should all be very aware that at any given moment, it could be us in their place~


    • Hi Gator Woman, I’m reminded of that each day I talk to my friends. None of us are immune from disease, accidents, or the actions of other people. We are all the same, we seek happiness and an end to suffering. ~ Dennis


  4. What an interesting fellow


    • Hi Matthew, he is interesting. He doesn’t speak with a very loud voice. I bend over to hear him better, then my back begins to ache, then a noisy truck passes by. I do enjoy his morning stories, he always has something to say. ~ Dennis


  5. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.


  6. My dad’s first job was a pinner. So many jobs are taken over by machines. In a way, it’s good because the jobs are often tedious, but work of any kind can be rewarding.


    • Jobs in the 1950’s, for example, were far more plentiful than they are today. It was a worker’s market, so pay was higher. If a job proved to be too tedious, or too arduous; quitting and finding another was no problem. Now, workers have to hang on to anything they can get. ~ Dennis


  7. the part about social security resonated with me…after a ruptured brain aneurysm I was turned down because I can walk, talk, and wash myself…oh yeah and I still have all the vision in my RIGHT eye…sorry I was venting…all that to say, this was really good…lol


  8. I”m new to your writing. What a superb piece. Have you read ” Mayhew’s London” ? It’s very much in your vein- interviews with Victorian poor.


  9. Dennis, your reporting about the homeless is right on. As a person who has worked many hours with the homeless I feel that what you are doing is important to people and I recommend you for their reading—-you make the homeless “real people” not just shadowy people on the street or numbers in statistics. I write often about Jesus’ reaching out to all people and how if we are to be his disciples we need to do the same. I’m sure you’ve read my blog—Pastor Jim’s Jottings—it’s URL is thanks for all you do!


  10. It is so incredibly sad that most people’s first reaction to seeing these people on the street is one of judgement and disdain. They are exactly like me, except for the luck and blessings I have been fortunate to recieve in my life. So humbling. Thank you.


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