A Wednesday in Toronto
I often forget about the freshness of morning.
Still unencumbered by whatever obstacles or sorrows the day might later present, everybody walking down the street had a crisp, optimistic look to them. Animated by the sunlight, they looked happy and ready for it all.
I stood outside waiting for a cab, watching an older man I’d become familiar with pulling weeds from a garden. Always wearing a baseball cap and a plaid, farmer’s shirt, the man has a slow, gentle and slightly uncomprehending manner, as if perhaps stricken wordless by trauma at some point in his life. From the grand house behind the property he was working on, a man walked confidently out the front door.
“Don’t pull so hard!” he said. The man in the baseball hat looked up, blinking, confused. “We talked about this,” the confident man continued, “use your head!!” He thumped his forefinger against his temple, underscoring this point. He then continued up the street, satisfied and looking like he felt he was at the top of his game, while the kneeling worker, demoralized now, appeared as if he was feeling the exact opposite. It was 8:30 in the morning and this was the start to both of their days.
There were about 10 people waiting for the elevators in the lobby at the Mt. Sinai hospital. An older woman with smooth, freshly polished skin smiled at everyone. She was pretty, wearing the sort of hat you’d see at a fancy horse race and she carried her cane with style. “Look at us, all watching the numbers to see which one comes first, it’s like we’re gambling at a casino!” Given the hospital setting, I thought about this probably more than I should have.
On the sixth floor I got off for my appointment and as I was checking in with the receptionist, the woman in the hat showed up. She was lost and when she was told that she was on the wrong floor– that CT scans were done on the 5th floor– a look of frustration and anger clouded her pleasant face. She turned to me, “It’s the elevators! They’re not working! The button said this was the 5th floor, the 5th, not 6th!” and then she began to cry.
The receptionist was blessed with a Caribbean accent and liked to keep herself busy.
“I have my church clothes, I have my supermarket clothes, I have my pharmacy clothes and I have my go-out-and-have-a-good-time-clothes. It’s just the way that I am,” she told nobody in particular.
In constant movement, she was singing at her desk. She simply could not stop.
“We will praise you for the rest of our days. Hallelujah!” she sang.
Snapping her fingers and even sometimes dancing, she had all the sober looking technicians giggling as they peeked over at her through paperwork. A heavier woman, also with a Caribbean accent, walked by shaking her head, “Listen Anne Murray, I will talk to you later,” and pointing her finger, gave her a look that suggested a genial, running battle.
“I got my praise on,” the receptionist shot back, “ain’t nothing going to go wrong this morning. You bring it.”