Vancouver – Working in Hastings.

The office was somewhere off  Arbutus. Real big shtuff. A dank place with plastic orange chairs that bounce up when you stand. Cigarette butts somewhere the floor and a vending machine that spat out colonic coffee if you were crazy enough to buy it. The whole place had the sense of being converted from a bookies. The woman behind the counter had the forms. One page. Details and qualifications please. What’re you looking for? Labouring, right. Ok, take a seat. You shoulda been here this morning, though. Lotta the work’s gone already, painting, furniture that kinda thing. Take a seat, anyway, k.
Sat down. A woman sowing in the corner. A man drinking from a bagged bottle by the door A gaunt number beside me, thin jeans, chewing on a toothpick and looking around. Denim waistcoat and black shoes, black eyes and an odour of criminal intent. A history of jail maybe, misdemeanours and botched burglaries. Now he’s here on the straight and narrow, there’s an office on Arbutus, gives you work, by the day, maybe move some furniture. Hundred dollars a go, do five days, month’s rent, the rest is tax free after the office take their cut. Just don’t screw anybody over. Don’t steal nothin.
‘Hey, Irish, you wanna move some couches?’
Denim jacket turns with: ‘Hey, what the fuck?’
‘They don’t want you, son, somethin bout a missin drill…’
‘I didn’t take any fuckeeeeen drill…’
‘Well sure as hell wasn’t me, try a different office tomorrow, that’s what I think you should do.’
‘Ah….fuck this, man….’
Outside, rain threatened, traffic screamed. Sat into the van. There was a smell of Tim Horton’s Vanilla coffee. Dan was driving, in yesterday’s stubble and last week’s shirt, half way through a spliff. So where we goin, Dan?
We drove to Hastings. Welfare Wednesday. Everybody stoned, bombed, half dead, half alive, half starved and mostly mad. They reckon there was a psychiatric hospital here years ago but it got shut down. Now all the patients just roam the streets unmedicated. It’s a wild den of schizos, manics, pyschos and addicts. Wasn’t long before the dealers and pimps moved in to turn a profit by scooping up the government money. Dan pulls in to finish another spliff, narrowly misses a mad laughing woman on a wheelchair. She was almost bald, looked like Chucky from the film Child’s Play. I asked Dan about the job. Something do with a flat and some junkies being evicted and us taking the furniture. There was a man on the corner injecting something into his right front toe. We got out and pulled ourselves together and got ready for the big task. The sun belted down like irony on the hell around us. To my left there was a fella squatted by the side of the van, havin a big shit for himself. I gave a look that said: ‘What the hell are you at?” And he looked up and went: ‘Hey, man….you got a quarter?’

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