Sunday, 22 April 2018

Fake Baked Beans and Overheated People

            Outside the food bank on Saturday morning the regular crowd was there. We were all waiting for Martina to come around with the box of numbers for us to randomly pick. It was the first day in many months warm enough for bare handed reading and since I was finished with school till September I continued from where I’d left off last summer with Balzac’s “The Atheist’s Mass” in my dual language book of French stories.
            For the first half hour or so things were uneventful until someone arrived and took a spot in line near the front, explaining that he’d been there earlier. The big guy that had gotten angry at Bart’s verbal outbursts a few weeks before now blew up at the guy for allegedly butting in. It didn’t make any sense to me to get angry about places in line since we now had a random number system, so I said to the guy, “What difference does it make?” This caused him to go ballistic on me as he started yelling, “Mind your own fucking business! You’ve always got something to say! Last time it was about that schizophrenic guy! Just get out of my fucking face and leave me alone! I’m just here to get some help! I don’t need your bullshit!” Whenever I opened my mouth to try to reason with him he would just cut me off with, “I don’t give a fuck!” Finally I just old him to relax, but of course that’s one of the worst things one can say to an angry person. My daughter’s mother almost scratched my eyes out once when I told her to relax when she was mad.
            The prematurely white haired volunteer that sometimes drives the van came out to announce that somebody screwed up with the numbers and so this time everybody would have to remember their places in line. That rendered the conversation I’d attempted to have with the angry guy totally pointless from the get go. We all more or less found our places in line and waited.
            After the line had moved a couple of times I asked the door guy what happened to the numbers. He said he just couldn’t find them and the manager, Valdene hadn’t shown up, which is weird, since she’s the only person there that gets paid. I’d always been curious as to whether food bank management gets paid. He explained that she started getting paid in January because now they have extra money from the March of Dimes.
            When the young woman at the computer checked my name on the system I asked her if they were going to have the numbers back next week. She said, “We know where the numbers are but we just decided not to use them this time because there weren’t many people.” There were just as many people as usual so I don’t know what she was talking about and I’m not sure if she did either.
            The only volunteer working the shelves was the older Ukrainian lady and so I had to wait until she’d done a full cycle with the person ahead of me.
            I hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks because I was preparing for an exam the previous Saturday. I noticed that they’d rearranged the shelves a bit and removed one entirely.
            On top of the first shelf there was a plastic jar of applesauce with raspberries.
            From lower down I got three oats and chocolate chewy bars.
            The bottom of the first shelf now held the cereal that used to be on a shelf behind Angie, but that shelf had been replaced by a big fridge with glass doors. The only cereals though were boxes of Chex, which I’ve never liked very much, so I didn’t take any.
            At the top of the second set of shelves was a small can of Bush’s “baked” beans. Most makers of canned beans in Canada don’t pretend on the labels that their beans are baked when they are really steamed. Bush’s is a Tennessee based company that falsely markets their beans as baked. There are actually only two companies in the United States that sell canned beans that have been baked in pots inside of large ovens. Those are B&M in Maine and S&W, a Del Monte acquisition in California.
            Further down I grabbed a can of chickpeas and below that a tin of sardines.
            There were lots of canned soups but I picked a carton of market vegetable soup.
            I stood for about ten minutes in front of Angie’s dairy section waiting for Angela. At first she was in the back and then she was a couple of meters away and it seemed she was instructing Sylvia to separate her rutabagas and grapefruits. I was physically patient but what she was doing didn’t seem necessary. A one point she said to me, “I’ll be with you in a minute hon!” Five minutes later she was back at her station.
            She offered me milk but all she had was 2% and I don’t know if it’ll make a difference but I’m trying to cut my fat intake so I’ve decided to only drink 1% from now on. Angie shrugged and said, “Ohhkay.” Then she asked me if I wanted a one litre chocolate coconut smoothie. She assured me that it was very good, so I accepted it. She also gave me two cups of fruit bottom yogourt and two half-cup blocks of Becel margarine. Instead of the usual bag of four eggs I got three large ones. The final dairy item was perhaps the most decadent thing I’ve ever gotten from the food bank: a pressurized can of dark chocolate-caramel whip-cream.
            Sylvia had seedless cucumber, a bag of potatoes, small orange, yellow and red peppers, onions and a frozen Wageners Black Forest style ham. I assume that ham producers not of the Black Forest are legally required to put the word “style” in front of the product, because, since 1997 “Black Forest Ham” has been a protected designation of origin in the European Union as is Sangria, Prosciutto and Stilton. It has always struck me as odd though how different the taste is between Black Forest Ham and Black Forest cake.
            I walked out the door but then I remembered that I was out of bread, so I went back in to see what they had. The only loaves on offer were white buns and multigrain baguettes, so I took a pass.
            I hope the food bank fixes the problem with the numbers next time. The random system is nice because one doesn’t have to worry about remembering one’s place in line or whether someone else has jumped ahead.
                         As far as the food goes the shelves continue to be well stocked and there’s lots of protein and dairy.
There’s nothing much that can be done about the occasional volunteer shortage like this time, but if the manager is getting paid now it seems to me that she should be there when the food bank is open.
After the food bank on Saturday I rode immediately down to the No Frills at Jameson and King. The only fruit I bought were some strawberries. I picked up some 21-grain bread, because 20 grains are just not enough. I grabbed some old cheddar and three litres of 1% milk. They had natural peanut butter on sale for $1.88. It’s usually more than twice that price so I couldn’t pass that up.
I had samosas for lunch. I downloaded Beck’s first album and listened to half of it. I’d heard a couple of songs before and seen him on television a few times but I’d never dug into his discography. I think he’s a pretty impressive songwriter and a dynamic performer.
I took a bike ride in the afternoon. On the way up Brock Avenue I stopped to look through some boxes of stuff that had been thrown out. There were mostly books and a few kitchen items such as glass containers. The only thing I took was a large hardcover volume entitled “Abnormal Psychology”. It looks like it served as a course textbook. It’s in excellent condition other than the yellow highlighting in the text.
At Spadina and Bloor there was a jazz duo of a man playing the drums and a woman on saxophone.
I considered riding as far east as the bridge over the Don Valley but there were still some puddles from melted snow, plus I felt I was overdressed for a longer ride. I’ll start going out to Scarborough again soon but meanwhile just riding as far as Yonge and Bloor every day is lots more exercise than I had all winter.
I rode down Yonge to Queen and stopped again at Homesense because I’d gotten the sense that when I’d gone in there before the salesperson had misunderstood the name of the glassware that I’d asked about. They had a pretty good selection, but no Picardie tumblers.
That night I watched an Alfred Hitchcock Hour teleplay starring John Cassavetes and Ann Sothern. Cassavetes plays a convict named Rusty, whose cellmate, Mike, who stole $56.000 before he was caught, is now dying of pneumonia. Rusty, who will be getting out soon, tries to get Mike to tell him where the money is, but all he says before he dies is that the money is still with his partner, Pete, who is dead. He goes to the small town where Mike left his girlfriend, Helen, whom Mike had described as the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Rusty finds Helen (a little too coincidentally) working as a waitress in the first hash joint he goes for lunch. Helen is nothing like Mike described her. She is frumpish and wears glasses. They get together to look for the money and become lovers but more for the sake of convenience than attraction. They go to a rat infested fishing shack that had been owned by Pete. Between the ceiling and the roof Rusty finds the strongbox containing the money beside Pete’s skeleton. They both planned on double crossing one another but Helen swings first with an iron bar. Rusty wakes up with his arms tied behind him to a support beam and with both his ankles tied together. Helen tells Rusty that she’d deliberately become unattractive to throw the cops off and she the breaks her glasses under her foot go prove she doesn’t need them. She stuffs all the money in her pockets, gags Rusty and his about to leave the shack when Rusty lifts both his feet to kick her in the ass. She tumbles forward and is impaled on a spike. Rusty is trying futilely to break free just as the rats come dropping all around him from the ceiling.

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