Life of Brian
Thomas, Novel, Kola
Brian is a panhandler. Fie works around Metro (subway) stations in downtown and west end Montreal. And from what I can see, when this brother decides to retire, if he doesn't expire on a city street, in a park or dingy room somewhere before, he could adopt Frank Sinatra's classic "My Way" to put his lifestyle into some sort of perspective. He's doing it his way.
In his mid-thirties, this brother does pretty well; he takes home" a couple hundred or more in a good week," he once told me, with hubris. Of course, there are those days when no one seems to have any spare change. But that's the nature of his vocation.
We're not friends, but I like the brother; he has a pleasant demeanor, and he doesn't hassle or nag people when he's on the job.
When I saw Brian at work the first time in a particular metro station (Like in Paris, France, that's what the subway is called in Montreal.) and he asked me for some 'change' my instinct was to assume a negative position. This brother better get himself a job ... was an initial and fleeting thought. I quickly corrected myself, realizing that' he ain't doin' nothin' different than them omnipresent White boys and girls with their million and one excuses who work the same, as well as different, metro stations, and also other strategic locations downtown. So I came to my senses, dug into my pocket, pulled out two or three quarters and handed them to him. And as long as I can afford it I've dug into my pockets on subsequent occasions whenever I meet the brother.
I'm not parsimonious; but the truth is, sometimes I can use some spare change myself. You see, in my world, in my pocket, there's no such thing as spare change (I hear this from other people also.) Every penny, nickel, dime or quarter has a purpose these days. But giving a quarter to Brian or some other person might help them acquire their panacea--whatever it is--at least for for a few fleeting minutes of a given day.
Brian and I engage in conversation when we meet, sometimes they're lengthy, sometimes fleeting--if I'm in a hurry. I ask how he's doing, if he's making a lot of money, and so on.
I don't know this brother's past, but I know his present, as much as can be seen, and as much as he imparts to me.
The first time he tried to make a withdrawal from me in that metro station a few years ago I was curious as to why this young and, by his physical appearance (I think it belies his mental state), healthy brother was panhandling. So I asked him the question, and he began to give me a lengthy and convoluted story about" ... trying to find a job ... [And] I'm doing this just to make a few dollars to buy some food and pay my rent.... " He also said his counsellor [social assistance or psychiatric, I don't know which one, and I didn't ask. A human being, alternative lifestyle notwithstanding, is still entitled to some privacy.] Was trying to get him registered in a course because he wanted to"...finish high school then get a good job.... " As far as I can see, Brian has neither registered for, nor gone back to school.
As has become the social norm, and like many people across the racial spectrum, this brother had clearly reached his threshold [with the rigors of life in organized 'rat race' society].
So Brian should get a job? But he already has one: panhandling, which seems to sustain him. And if his expressed objective of (wanting to go back to) school is ostensibly to acquire skills for the job market, then Brian has honed his skills for the peripheral job market without even going back to, let alone finishing high school. And he seems contented as a studhorse whenever I see him working.
And you know what, by being panhandlers; people like Brian ultimately pay taxes--albeit sales taxes--like everyone else who purchases goods and services of any kind. So governments won't be in any hurry to sweep them up like garbage off metropolitan streets or wherever else they may be working. …