You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up!
“As long as the world is inhabited by people making bad decisions, journalists will have their work cut out for them.”
-- Toronto-based writer/editor Kevin MacLean
I’m in a passport office in Brampton, ON, I took my number and now I’m waiting for it to be called. I’m chatting with the woman to my left.
She’s from North Bay, about four hours north, and she owns a convenience store. She’s applied for passport for a vacation back to India and she’s been waiting for about an hour in this office.
Her Blackberry sounds. I say, “I hope you’ll be turning that thing off when you’re on vacation.”
Before she answers, she says, “No I run a business; it’s on 24/7.”
She answers the call. In Hindi or Tamil. I don’t know which. She expresses surprise then gets agitated and stands up and walks to a quieter place to talk.
She returns to the seat, not in any mood to talk.
A few moments later, another incoming call. A few more back and forth until finally, she sits down, sighs with relief and puts the cell in her satchel.
What’s up, I ask.
The first call was from her husband, who was minding the shop.
He was in a panic. He had been manning the cash register then darted into a back storage room for a moment, not knowing that if you turn the knob just so, the little storage room door locks. And the only key? In the missus’ purse four hours and change away in Brampton.
Fortunately, he had his cell with him. He called his wife.
She responded coolly and phoned a neighbor back in North Bay, who just happened to be home, who said he was (miraculously!) free to go over to help.
So the fourth or fifth call that came back was the husband, with the good news that the Samaritan had whipped over to the store, broken the storage-room door and released Mr. Shopkeeper.
It took all of 20 minutes. No word on whether anything got swiped from the store or not. Meantime, I have a feeling she’s going to be glad India has Blackberry access.
Another North Toronto Location. This one in a trucking company warehouse.
The owner’ telling me about his first days in the business when suddenly, his cell beckons. A quick few back-and-forths.
(Those conversations, too, are in a very similar language to whatever the woman at the passport office was talking, though the stories are otherwise unrelated).
He finally puts the phone away. “Do you like gardening?” he asks me. (I don’t.)
“My wife sure does,” I tell him. “Why?”
“We have a half a trailer full of bedding plants that we have to throw out. If you’d like some, you’re welcome to them.”
Turns out one of his trucks carried a load from the Niagara Peninsula to the Walmart DC in Cornwall but the receiver there took a look at the plants and rejected them. The carrier called the shipper who said they’d be no good to him either.
So the carrier (the guy I was interviewing) gave them to his staff or whoever else wanted them.
I called my wife, who might well be the best gardener ever. She made the fastest cross-Toronto trip in history and we loaded her van completely with bedding plants. Herbs, flowers, banana peppers, all manner of greenery with exotic names and spellings. It sort of looked like a giant hedge on wheels but smelled like, well, a cross between a health food store and funeral parlor.
I kept thinking “Somebody — probably some poor hard-working-for-minimum-wage-guy down Niagara way — is going to get yelled at, even though what happened is not really his fault. “
At the same time I was pretty sure I’ve never seen the missus happier.
And you should see our garden now. The Walmart guy was very wrong. These babies are blooming! Wish Mr. Walton would drop by sometime to see’em.