Archive for November 15, 2013




I wasn’t expecting to see Chuck this morning, but it was relatively warm with no snow.

“Good morning, Chuck.”

“Hi, it was warm, so I decided to come down.”

A regular stopped to drop a dollar into Chuck’s upturned cap. “Hang on to that. Better put it on your pocket so nobody grabs it on you.”

Chuck said to me, “That happened, you know. I was sitting here with change in my cap. Someone came along,  grabbed my cap and took off. I was really pissed off.

“That only happened to me once before, when I took off on my wife. That was about twelve years ago. She was okay financially, she had a disability pension coming in. The only things I took with me were my dog, some clothes that I threw in a bag, and my wallet. I went to a friends place for a couple of nights, then I slept outside. While I was asleep someone grabbed my bag with everything in it. I had nothing. That’s when I started panning in front of the Rideau Center.”

An elderly lady said, “Hi Chuck. How are you today?” She put two dollars into his cap.  To me she said, “Weren’t you here the last time I came by?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Well God bless you both. I’ll be getting on now.”

Chuck said, “When I was panning at the Rideau Center. “I met a friend of mine, who invited me to stay at his place. He said If I’d look after his three kids I could sleep on his couch for as long as I wanted. That worked out really well. I’d get up, make their breakfast, pack their lunches and see that they got off to school. I’d be there when they returned. Then my friend was told by his doctor that he was going to die. He had some strange disease that only five people in Canada have. It’s genetic, although it bypasses some generations. He decided to move to Halifax to spend his last days. So I was on my own, That was five years ago. I got a telephone call from him last week, he’s still holding on.

“Then I moved into an apartment. It was a nice place. I liked it but the fuckin’ landlord kept raising my rent. I stayed there about three years. One day, I was talking to the landlord from the building down the block. He asked me how I liked where I was living. I said, ‘The place is alright, but the land lord keeps raising my rent. ‘ He said, ‘That’s not fair. How would you like to live in my building. The rent will be less and I’ll only raise it by two percent a year, Ill have that written in the lease.’ That was great. I gave notice to my landlord, told him where I was moving and why. He got really mad, I’d been a good tenant, paid my rent on time, I was quiet.

I had arranged for the moving truck, but it was late, so I started taking some of my small things over in a shopping cart. When I got to the new place the two landlords were fighting, rolling around on the street. I didn’t know it at the time, but these two guys were brothers. There had always been a rivalry between them.

I asked, “Is that the place you are living now?”

“No, I stayed a few years, but I wanted to be closer to downtown. I thought that, with my wheel chair it would be easier to get around, but the goddamned city workers won’t plow my sidewalk. Sometimes I can’t get out of my building. I’m just a block from the city yards and that street only gets plowed twice each winter. That’s a disgrace.

I said, “I guess you can expect that of city workers.”

“It shouldn’t be that way.  When we had that bus strike, after those months we had to put up with no service. Our fuckin’ mayor just caves in and gives them everything they wanted, They get paid a fortune, and what do they do for it?”

I asked, “Do they always put the ramp down for you? Do you have any problems getting on the busses.”

“Sometimes they put the ramp down.  Other times it gets frozen and guck  builds up. In that case there is a strap that they have to pull up and open it manually. You should hear the complaints I get. One guy, a hundred and eighty pounds he was, whined , I don’t want to hurt my finger.’ Can you imagine that? Another complained. ‘I can’t lift it, I’ve got a bad back.’ Sometimes stuff will get lodged in my wheels and it will make it difficult to maneuver. All it takes, sometimes, is to lift the back of the chair and kick the wheels.  Do you think they’d bend down and pick up something? Not on your life.  One driver did, a woman, bent right over and pulled something out of my wheel. I told her not to, she could have injured her back doing that.

“During that bus strike, where all they wanted was more money, one man did die. He was in his apartment. He couldn’t get anywhere without busses. He had no phone. He just sat there and died.”

“Oh, well, I’ll just have to hope that one of my neighbors shovels a path to the bus stop.”

I said, “There are outreach services that do work especially for seniors. Their rates aren’t very high, about eight dollars an hour. They’ll do snow shoveling, grass cutting, gardening, dusting, vacuuming.”

“That’s too expensive for me. I’ll just have to take my chances. After I leave here I’m going to Ticket master to try to get a seat for tonight’s game. They’re playing the Bruins. I try to have a life.”

“Bye, Chuck, I hope to see you soon.”