First Come First Served?

The food bank line-up was a bit longer than usual when I got there but all of the regular early birds were there. I found my place behind the blue gym bag and began reading “The Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler” from where I’d left off as the young Julian continues to slaughter every animal he finds. Finally, he comes across a majestic black stag with its mate and their fawn. He murders the fawn first and then the doe. The stag charges him and with his final arrow Julian pierces the beast’s forehead, but it keeps on coming. Just before reaching him though the stag stops and says to Julian, “A curse on you! One day you will murder your own mother and father” and then the proud animal collapses and dies. Holy Catholic Oedipus Stagman!


Speaking of parents, Tammy was telling someone, “My mother spit me out and there I was, the image of her.” This sounded so mythical I had to look it up. The Egyptian creator deity, Atum was said to have sneezed or spit out his offspring, Shu the god of air and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.


When Valdene and Martina arrived in the food bank van, Valdene gave out muffins to those that were willing to come to her and get them. The reviews I overheard were that they were fresh and very good.


Besides me, there are only two or three food bank clients that read books while they are waiting. One of them is a woman that always carries the Bible. Angie was having a smoke on the steps of 1501 Queen and greeted the Bible lady, “Hello sister!” She smiled and called back, “God loves you!” Angie responded, “And you too!”


I heard Valdene mention that they’d be starting a little later than usual but most of us got into line at 10:30 anyway. A few places ahead of me there was a dispute between a man and woman over which was ahead of the other. Valdene came over to ask what was going on and after hearing what the disagreement was she said to the man, “As a gentleman, shouldn’t you let the lady go first?” I exclaimed “What?” and then said, “Why not as a lady shouldn’t she let the gentleman go first?” Valdene responded, “In a perfect world, yes!” whatever that was supposed to mean. I meant that things shouldn’t be solved according to gender. I told her, “This wouldn’t happen if you brought back the number system!” She said, “A lot of people don’t like the number system!” I asked, “Do you want people lining up here at 6:00?” She answered, “No!” “Then bring back the number system!” “I will, eventually!”


A few minutes later Valdene came out with a piece of paper and a pen and, I guess based on our exchange, she began to ask each person in line, “Numbers or line-up?” and then she’d check off one of two columns. When she got to the guy with the prematurely grey hair that was ahead of me, he told her with a warning tone, “You don't want to hear what I think!" "Yes, I do actually!" "No, you don't!" “So you don’t want to answer?" He shook his head. After she'd polled the whole line-up, as she passed me on her way back she said, “It’s three to one for the line-up!" I said, “Meaningless!” She said, “Whatever!” Martina, the doorkeeper mentioned that more people would be coming later. Another volunteer, who may be a co-manager, suggested that the vote might be different if it was wintertime. I was quite surprised that people far back in line would vote for the line-up system over the random numbers since for someone at the end of the line the random numbers give them better odds than the line-up. If someone is the 30th person in line the downside of not getting a lower number is that they would end up pretty much where they are already and so they couldn’t lose. It made me wonder if they fully understood the question. I guess for a lot of people it may be that they simply do not like change because what they are used to gives them a certain security. 

There are some other factors that contribute to a poll like the one Valdene took being flawed. One is that while there is a core group of regulars every Saturday, there are more that don’t come every week and a few that are new each time. Another is that the first ten people in line have a better chance of losing from the random number system, which means that they most probably would have all voted for the first come first serve arrangement, and so their votes shouldn’t really be counted in a poll.
When the line started moving the guy in front of me would sometimes wait until there was a large gap between him and the person in front of him and then he would pick up his blue gym bag and violently throw it down to remark his spot.
I got downstairs at around 11:00 and I noticed right away that there was one shelf that was entirely empty and another that was only partially stocked. I heard one of the people at the computers tell someone that they had more perishables than non-perishables this time.
I noticed that they still had lots of boxes of Atkins peanut butter fudge bars that are sweetened with sucralose and I realized that I’d forgotten to bring my box back to re-donate.

There was nothing in the cereal section but on the top shelf, there was a small package of chocolate coconut artisan granola. I got a few granola bars and a juice box. I could have had two juice boxes but decided that I’d liked the single one better because I misread the pack of two, which I figured out later, was the exact same thing. But only taking one juice box instead of two cuts my chances of getting turned into a girl in half, according to Alex Jones, who thinks girls are a bad thing to be.

There was no canned tuna but there were canned beans and so I got a tin of chickpeas. I reminded myself to buy a new can opener because opening one of those cans with the one I’ve had for ten years is like trying to strangle an armadillo to death. It makes one wonder what’s the point of life if every ten years one has to spend another $5 on a manual can opener.

Angie gave me a 750-gram container of sweetened, plain yogourt; three eggs, one of which broke before I got home, but I managed to pour most of it out of the bag and into the frying pan later that night. She offered me the usual frozen ground chicken, frozen chicken wieners and bologna but I turned them down. She also had some frozen beef hot dogs but I didn’t want those either so she dug into the fridge and dug out two burger patties. I asked if they were veggie burgers but she assured me they were the real deal, so I took them.

Sylvia had so many vegetables this time that she didn’t want to bother going through each item. After giving me a 5-kilogram bag of Yukon Gold potatoes from P.E.I (I wonder if one can get P.E.I. potatoes from the Yukon), two plums and two nectarines, she just said for me to take what I wanted. I grabbed a head of leaf lettuce, a package of tomatoes and a seedless cucumber but not the yellow zucchini.

The bread section had a very good selection this time and the person minding the shelves assured me that it was all fresh. I got a loaf of protein bread and some crumpets.

The two nectarines that I got were from the States, seemed like they’d been shipped frozen and now tasted like plastic fruit. It seems weird that one never sees Ontario peaches or nectarines in the food bank this time of year when they are so abundant and delicious.

“This wouldn’t happen if you brought back the number system!” She said, “A lot of people don’t like the number system!” I asked, “Do you want people lining up here at 6:00?” She answered, “No!” “Then bring back the number system!” “I will, eventually!”
Wine-up Across from the Line-up
Saturday morning when I got up it was so muggy that during yoga three oil companies tried to float rigs on my sweat. I flipped over before they could start drilling.
It cooled down and dried up a bit during song practice but it felt like it was going to be a hot day so I wore sandals to the food bank. There was a steady stream of cars heading east along Queen and I couldn’t cut across to 1499 as I usually do, so I went to the lights at Sorauren and pushed the button to cross. I assume the increased flow of traffic was of people headed for the Caribana parade.
The last person in the food bank line had marked their spot with a recyclable shopping bag that looked like the kind sold at Freshco. A young woman came shortly after me and as she positioned her cart I made sure she knew that I was ahead of her. She left her cart there and moved to the other side of the sidewalk. I told her she was wise not to stand close to the building and she agreed, saying that she learned her lesson last time she was there. That was the time when a pigeon dropped a stream of shit all along the line and she'd gotten pooped on a bit as well.
Across the street near the corner were two young women wearing matching peach coloured costumes with similarly hued plumage at the back. Our door person Marlina approached them with her phone and they gladly posed for her. A few minutes later a car pulled up and they removed their feathery tails to put them in the back, get in and drive to the parade.
Shortly after that a group of four young women, also dressed for Caribana but not in matching garb, except that they all wore gold hoop earrings large enough to pitch a baseball through, were hanging around and taking shots of one another with their phones. In one pose, a young lady with a particularly generous derriere began to wine in profile while another girl stood behind her. They eventually crossed the street and walked down Beatty.
A group that looked like they just got off a bus came walking east on Queen. They consisted of a mixture of middle-aged African Americans and some elderly people of East Indian descent. One woman who sounded like she was from Buffalo asked the woman whose cart was behind me in line whether the parade would be going by there. She shook her head and they continued on.
The large and talkative Tammy and the frightfully skinny and almost as chatty Brenda were smoking together on the steps of 1501 Queen. Brenda mentioned something about someone looking like a drug addict. Tammy said, "No offence but you look like a drug addict.” Brenda laughed and responded, “I am a drug addict! I’m addicted to pot." Tammy said, “I look like I smoke pot.” Brenda assured her, "I eat all the time!” and suggested that she just has a different metabolism.
I read another page and a half of Flaubert’s "The Legend of St Julian the Hospitaler". The whole section just described the young Julian's love of hunting and how cruel he was to the animals that he brought down, such as just cutting off a living bird’s legs and indifferently riding away. A lot of stories of saints are like that because if they set them up as having begun as bad guys it gives their enlightenment more impact.
When the line started moving, the two people that were ahead of me still hadn’t come to move their cart and bag, so I moved them ahead by pushing the cart and kicking the bag. After a couple of moves, they both came to claim their places.
From the shelves I got a tube of Pringles; a tin each of chickpeas, tuna and spicy refried beans; and a package of five peanut butter fudge bars, but I didn’t realize until later that they were Atkins diet bars containing sucralose, so I won’t open the package and I’ll return them to the food bank next time. The Atkins people tend to suppress the fact that Atkins had several heart attacks leading up to his death from a blood clot in his brain. His wife refused to allow an autopsy.
They only had the kind of cereal that is served hot, so I didn’t take any. Generally, I tend not to even eat hot cereal in the wintertime because it’s too mushy.
I didn’t take any soup or pasta either.
At Angie’s dairy and meat station, I think she gave me extra yogourt because I turned down the milk. I also got a pack of four single servings of cottage cheese and the usual three eggs. In addition to the usual meat offerings, there was a bag of chicken fingers and a pack of frozen, sliced honey-maple ham.
Sylvia gave me two red potatoes, two carrots, a green pepper, four Roma tomatoes, a seedless cucumber and a cantaloupe. She didn’t offer me any of the kale and I didn't ask because it was yellowing.
The bread being offered were just several crusty white loaves, so I didn’t bother.
Outside on the traffic signal box in front of the food bank someone has posted a poster with a black and white copy of the picture of a young man wearing a t-shirt with the message “Art is Dumb". The original colour version of the same photo can be found online and it's an ad for No Fun Press, which is a Toronto dealer of clothing, bags, hats and pins that are printed with irreverent messages. For instance, they sell socks that say, “Eat shit" and a cuddly teddy bear wearing a t-shirt with the message "Fuck off" among other items. Their slogan is "Negativity is our specialty".
There was a steady stream of cars heading east along Queen and I couldn’t cut across to 1499 as I usually do, so I went to the lights at Sorauren and pushed the button to cross.

More Adventures on the Archive page