Do you ever wonder how many people are only one job away from perfect, self realization?
I do. I wonder this every time I’m at the local Little Caesar’s Pizza and, bemused beyond belief, I witness (whom I assume is) a reformed crackhead gyrate by the roadside, waving her sandwich board around like there’s no tomorrow, like there’s no shame in this being her existence, announcing the second coming of the Calzone.
The fervour, the energy I see wasted here.
I think, had this person found Cirque Du Soleil at the right time in her life, she could be on a stage in Las Vegas, wrapped in ribbons, dangling from the ceiling in some casino, earning six figures or maybe a fat five. Instead, she’s here for the day, maybe tomorrow as well, having landed a short term employment gig at the behest of a work placement agency.
There’s four or five of these in the city, which tells you how just many temporarily-employable people flock to this mecca called Victoria to find fleeting salvation in a stamped time card. I wonder, do they think the holes punched in that strip of cardboard will somehow cancel out the holes stamped in their life, like double negatives in some human equation, resulting in a positive?
Only, for most of them, that equation comes up short. To paraphrase John Nash, “the solution is elegant, but flawed.” Being entitled to buy a six pack of Lucky Lager – the local substitute for the Colt 45 crowd – after losing another eight hours of their existence for the privilege, is just bad math. One can earned for every hour and a half of life lost, is like a ratio in a pop-up book explaining the law of diminishing returns.
It doesn’t rain as much here as it does on the mainland, which is why the crackheads come, and why the castaways, the stoners and hipsters wash up on the stores, human flotsam scattered among the crumpled aluminum carcasses of said empty Lucky cans.
Sun, and warmth. That’s literally how base our needs apparently are, that even in the 21st century, entire demographics will cross raging seas on the galleons of BC Ferries, braving nonexistent wifi signals and overpriced coffee for voyages that may last as long as two hours. Because there’s something worse than being a societal outcast, it’s being a wet one.
As I watch the late summer sun setting in the west, gleaming off the mirrored lenses of the dollar store sunglasses the Sandwich Board lady is wearing, I’m glad. Her gyrations are slowing down as the sky gets darker, as her maniac source of energy begins to diminish. Maybe tomorrow the universe will spit forth an opportunity less menial than this opportunity, standing on the corner of Hillside Avenue.
On the dry, dusty air, a metallic rattle and clang can be heard. It’s the sound of a shopping cart from the local Whole Foods being pushed atop rough pavement. A homeless man has filled it with the holistic and gluten-free possessions in his life, an old television, the remnants of a drum kit from Guitar Hero, and pushes it along. He chases the sun as it evades him like a disinterested girl on the dancefloor, as it runs far and beyond over the edge of the horizon.