I went into Toronto today to visit with a couple of potential clients. Bundled up against a winter ice storm, I scraped off the three inches of ice stuck to my car and quickly abandoned all hope of actually driving in after about 15 minutes of crawling along, squinting through a salt splattered windscreen. I found the nearest station and jumped on a train.
I don’t go into Toronto very often, maybe to visit a particular outdoor store or to go out on a date with my husband, and I almost never take the train. So I had forgotten about the number of homeless people that live in big cities, especially around the train stations. I used to see so many when I lived in London that the homeless people there became almost invisible, unless they were particularly barmy, like one guy whose beer belly was so big and heavy it used to make him roll off the bench he lay on every day outside Camden Tube station.
The homeless people in Toronto seem pretty innocuous. I’ve never been scared or anxious as a result of an encounter but I do feel uncomfortable in my huge winter coat, Starbucks in hand, whilst these people beg for money in the freezing cold. How anyone can truly believe that people choose to live like that is beyond my comprehension.
I had five minutes to spare before my first meeting so I went to get some money from an ATM in the foot of one of the big office towers on Bay Street. The person before me had left their withdrawal receipt lying on the ledge next to the ATM. Never one to pass up the opportunity to be nosy, I took a quick glance at it before I threw it away. He or she had just withdrawn $100 from their chequing account. After that withdrawal, the balance on their account was $149,134.56
How do you make sense of that?!