The Toronto Heat Wave
Tuesday was a very, very hot and soupy day in Toronto.
Passing a variety of irritable and dehydrated looking people, I took the dog for a short walk and popped into a local take out place to order a sandwich. It was empty and the guy working the counter looked sad and drained, like he had just been defeated in a five set tennis match. There was a large fan on the floor blowing hot air and dust all over the place, and a small AC unit in the window up by the ceiling that was chugging away. The interior temperature on the air conditioner read 91.
Me: “Hey, how’re you doing?”
Counter Guy: “I’m hot.”
Me: “ You’re doing great! You’re not covered in sweat, your breathing seems to be fine– you’re a champion!”
Counter Guy: (Employing heavy sarcasm) Thanks for the shot in the arm, Mister Motivation! And what are you doing taking your dog out in this weather? It’s high noon, her tongue’s hanging out and she’s completely exhausted!”
Me: “ You’re projecting. My dog is fine.”
Counter Guy: “ I bet she has a different opinion on that.”
I gave him a hard look.
Me: “You don’t know what my dog thinks,” I hissed.
Counter Guy: “Right. Fine. Just tell me what you want.”
As I was talking through my options and trying to decide what to have, a family of miserable European tourists, all wearing khaki shorts and money belts, entered into the place. The two parents, both covered in sweat, had clearly been fighting and were exhausted. Their two children looked sullen and limp.
The wife, standing with her hands on her hips while her husband and two kids sat slumping on stools, immediately took charge.
Woman: (In perfect English) “I need to feed my children now. Give me something with chicken, something else with ham and two Cokes.”
Me: “I think I was here first.”
At this point the husband, speaking in some language that for some reason I took to be Danish, began to argue with his wife. This lasted for about 30 intense seconds. The woman put her hand up to shush her husband and then turned and fixed me a look.
Woman: “Look, who cares that you were here first? You were just standing there, idling.”
Me: “I was making up my mind,” I stuttered, “and anyway, it’s the rule of law here, first come, first serve, okay?”
Woman: “You’ve never had kids, have you?”
Me: “I have a dog.”
When I said this, the husband bolted upright. Noticing Heidi, our Miniature Dachshund, sitting at my feet, he abruptly got up and pointed at me.
Man: “Dogs aren’t allowed in here, this is an eating establishment!! Your animal is dirty and bringing it in is no better than bringing in a rat. And do you ever think about other people, whether they might be allergic or scared of the creatures? No, of course not, you North Americans, you all make babies of animals, you disgust me!”
And then he gathered up his kids and stormed out of the place leaving his wife standing alone at the counter. She breathed very deeply and very slowly, and then after about five seconds she looked me square in the eyes.
Woman: “My marriage is hanging on by a goddamn thread, and you, you have not helped matters.”
And then she flicked me on the chest and hurried out after her family.
I sighed and looked up.
The AC now registered 93 degrees.