Hot’s Frozen Wake

(A short stream on delivering meals on wheels)

Looking at the EE cooler starting to sing “The Martian Hop” after pronouncing EE – driving now down Curlew from the North to Bridgepoint. Forever sameness Thursdays using a google map to time it from 10:25 for the free half hour. All assembly starting from the Velcro frozen to the Velcro carry bag and plastic tray ready to jam bread and dessert plastic in the back of a car.

Volunteers shout “Hi” from the back of a parked van wondering about overdue chocolate maybe dreaming of a cruise as finally warm enough to watch crags of ice melt for a short time and a visit to the ground level loo and a weekly cull of car garbage and mung from the back into a recycling bin, now watching the order of events ending with the coolers that keep things hot.

We look hard at the time printed on the usually free ticket to make sure it doesn’t turn into a price tag. Ouch! Sometimes going in and out again to refresh the time, it’s finally 10:45 and ready to go, climbing from the deep of Bridgepoint to tackle the world and deliver before 12:00.

First challenges are red lights and red rockets, then garbage trucks and pedestrians and unavailability of parking spots which are never, never free. Gerrard street – Chinatown – no parking. Door opening hazardous beside where my stonemason grandfather help build a church before World War I. Street crossing takes one’s life in hands. Snow ruts on side streets waiting behind garbage trucks – wait and wait and finally to the first fortress TCHC.

Absurd cacophony of signs telling you what you can’t do – no running, no loitering, no playing, don’t throw your trash here or here or here -surveillance cameras everywhere – don’t let people in – rules for respectful communication – rights – human rights and human wrongs. In case of fire, break this!

Ring the buzzer that doesn’t work but client could not get to the buzzer in any event – woman you have seen weekly for ten years won’t let you in because technically you’re a stranger who then gives ever so slight nod that I know who you are but not letting you in pointing to the don’t let strangers in sign.

Finally, inside – victory at hand -knock on first door of client who does not know why his name is not on the directory and his buzzer does not work and has actually never worked and he doesn’t care if it ever gets fixed. OK then ‘Go Leafs Go! Rejects the soup so more for the next guy who reads the Bible – what is it today? Judges. Judges? What did they decide? I tell him to stay away from Leviticus because there are too many rules about legal slave ownership based on where they come from.

Down the hall to no soup and upstairs to no bread and can I take a check to save her a stamp and please put everything the freezer that half the things won’t fit in – then a visit to the ecosystem and why is it called that? Because everything is moving on the countertop and they wait for me. They have body clocks that tell them that it’s about time for a hot meal.

Next to the person who says I am too early and asks if I can come back in 20 minutes and I guess I am too cruel for saying ‘no’. Next to another non-profit fortress where you can’t get in but a lady in a walker who has appointed herself as chief morning sentinel bangs a cane onto the inside door opener with a wheelchair sign emblazoned on it. Right beside this is the call for new recruits to be on the Board of Directors of the housing association and the large print ‘Housing is a human right’ sign partially obscured by a handwritten sign saying not to dump the wrong waste down the chute as it gets clogged with bad things that make the whole place unsanitary.

Elevators finally answer the call but never in long enough to completely understand how I am not in any danger and not supposed to panic if the elevator door won’t open because there is a phone near the floor that I can pick up and an elevator person will come to free me if this should ever happen. It disgorges me to a high floor with a window at the end with arguably east Toronto’s best view of the railway tracks, the banks of an ancient lake, the lake itself and Niagara in the distance. Stopping too long to marvel at the amplitude between hoarders of meaningless iconography and better homes and gardens thinking that what’s behind the walls is quite extraordinary.

Off to another fortress where the tenant again says that the buzzer has never worked but wonders aloud about my hat and where I got it.

Inliers and outliers, in-laws and outlaws, older, some young, the engaged and disengaged, well housed and badly housed, no rich, most poor, some alone and some together, some watched over and others alone. The route ends. They have their meals and another week is done.