My hand, chapped from protective washing, holds my wife’s hand on our journey down Bernard to the theatre. It’s her birthday, and she wants to see a romantic comedy. Our hoods are tucked neatly around our heads, and the street leads us through the cutting wind to the ticket queue.
Before eating popcorn, I again wash my hands; the movie begins, and twenty minutes later my wife and I look at each other with disappointment. The actors cuss, simulate sex and display values that we do not share. The manager is affable, he offers complimentary tickets and we emerge back into the wind.
We are in a huddled hurry to get to our car when a young man in a parka, pulling a shopping cart asks, “Hey, can you guys give me a quarter?” He solicits our favour through a cigarette which blooms between his lips. When we reply that we have only plastic, he expels a rill of smoke and asks, “Can you spare a dime?”
Ahead I see another buggy parked around the corner of a coffee shop. The cart is filled with plastic, odds and ends, and a pillow stashed beneath an upraised parasol in battered white. I capture this unusual juxtaposition of poverty and genteel society with my cell camera. But it feels like I am taking from the poor. My wife notices that this cart displays what seems to be a license plate; number 42 on a white background. She adds that the previous cart sported one too; number 35. And we bemusedly wonder if Bylaw has issued them.
Cold flails our pace to a car that welcomes us with streams of hot air. Driving upstreet I see pictures of Santa, the patron saint of shoppers, calling his disciples to the temple mall for worship. I satirically wonder what gifts Saint Nick has for owners of carts who do not possess credit cards. But from the steering wheel my dry-dry hands accuse me of complicity.
Next day we go for a cold afternoon walk in the neighbourhood. We meet a man who says that his spaniel, whom we pet with affection, is timid. It has sad eyes and long melancholy ears but he is friendly and accepts our attentions with restrained delight. The man has a departing conversation with us when my wife says, “For being timid, your dog is sure friendly.”
“He’s not my dog,” The man replies over his shoulder, “I’m just taking care of him. I don’t like dogs…or cats…………….or people.” His honesty forces me to consider that in my hurry to bypass the street-person I wash my hands of what is more important than objecting to carnal movies. Later I telephone Bylaw but they know nothing about license plates on shopping buggies. I wonder where people of the cart will sleep tonight.