That’s Life – 17 October 2014

Posted: October 17, 2014 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,




17 October 2014

As I was walking towards the park I met Mariah and the two Alberts. I asked, “Mariah, are you leaving?”

‘Yes, I’m not feeling so good. Cramps, I’ve just started my period. Albert is going to walk me home.”

The usuals were in there, in their usual place.

Marcel said, “Hi Dennis, I haven’t seen you for a long time. I’m not drinking now. I haven’t necessarily quit, but I’m a binge drinker. I’ll get drunk for a few days then I’ll stay off it for three months. I still have my weed. I won’t give that up. In fact I have a court appearance coming up for that, but the judge knows me. You see, I’m supposed to be getting workmen’s comp. for a back injury and the judge knows that. He knows that I’m self-medicating. Last time I told him, ‘Your honor, I could go to my doctor and get opiates for the pain in my back, but if I did I’d eventually become addicted, then I’d have another problem. Or, I could sell them on the street, to pay for my marijuana, but if I was caught I’d be in more serious trouble. He didn’t like where I was going with this.

“I changed social workers, and every time that happens they cut me off my meds. I have to go in, explain everything to them, get a letter from my doctor. Then I’m reinstated. I waited three months and hadn’t received a letter from my worker. She had been sending my mail to the wrong address. My old landlord hates me. He was probably throwing my mail in the garbage. Anyway, I told this to the judge. I said, ‘Your honor, I had no pain medication for three months. What was I to do?’  It was only a probation breach, so he had it dropped.”

I asked, “What is the charge for marijuana possession?”

“It all depends on the judge. If you’re caught with a gram, they may give you thirty days in jail. If you’re caught with an ounce, that’s a different story. They can charge you with trafficking. You could get sixty days to two years, whatever the judge decides.”

“How did you injure your back?” I asked.

“I was working at the airport. Every so often the 737’s suffer from what is called metal fatigue. The only thing to do is to take them completely apart, then put them back together again. It’s a big job and takes about two years. At the end I had a really easy job. I was doing the final inspection. I had a checklist that was color coded, from red that meant life threatening, yellow was hazardous, but not life threatening, and all the way down. So I didn’t have to do much, just make sure that everyone else had done their job. Near the ceiling of the hangar is where all the gasses collect, from the generators, the welding equipment, exhaust fumes. One day I passed out and fell about twenty feet to the cement floor. I had multiple spinal compression fractures in my lumbar region and neck.

“Why was there a delay in getting workmen’s compensation?”

“It was a grey area. First of all,  I lived in Quebec but worked in Ontario. They couldn’t decide which province should cover my injuries. Second, it was an international airport, so the federal government was involved. Third, for safety reasons we were only supposed to work eight-hour shifts. The union, without permission from the government, changed it to four twelve-hour shifts, with three days in between. According to the government, I shouldn’t have been working when I was. I raised a lot of shit. I became a whistle-blower and pointed out twenty-one safety violations that were taking place.  Things like guys going out for a smoke and propping the door open with a brick. The inspectors were aware of these things, they just chose to ignore them. That didn’t make me very popular with the union. Heads rolled, but I’ve been waiting fourteen years for my compensation. They say that I’m going to get my money, but I tell them, ‘It’s been fourteen years. My kids may get my money, but I’ll be dead by the time this is resolved.

“I really ruffled some feathers higher up. One night cops came to my door with a search warrant. They took every piece of paper in the house, photographs, even my kid’s drawings on the fridge. Now, why would they take a kid’s drawing? They also magnetized my house. Do you know what that means? They took a powerful magnet to every piece of electronic equipment I had,  computers, cameras, erased everything. They were gone within an hour, but they were thorough.

“There’s something else I did that upset a lot of people. I set up a union for panhandlers. It’s still active. We have a list of lawyers we can call, to appear for us in court, at no charge. They’re good lawyers.”

I asked, “Is there any way that you can go back to the kind of work you were doing at the airport?”

“No, my doctor says that I’ve developed a sensitivity to certain gasses. Even a whiff could trigger my brain into falling asleep. It’s the body trying to protect itself. If you’re asleep, then your breathing is shallower. I get ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program), but because I was in a high paying job, I’d get a lot more from the Compensation Board, but, that’s life.”


  1. Something about your narration – I’ve always thorouglly enjoyed them. Thank you for sharing (:


  2. […] Source: That’s Life […]


  3. alzarghit says:

    Dennis, you’re an amazing person for giving voice to people who have lost theirs. In fact, I should say “to people who’ve been robbed of their voice by institutions”.

    Thank you Marcel for your honesty despite all the problems that it brought you. We live in a very strange time when we have laws which prevent people from toning down their pain with drugs which are less toxic than the drugs approved by the law.

    A very old member of my family is dying of cancer and there is virtually no way to make those last days less (physically and emotionally) painful other than by using opiates whose side effects limit their usage.

    Why do we punish the bodies of people who claim a right to decide what is good for their bodies?


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