Fifty cents for a coffee

Toronto, Ontario, Canada….again. It was early in 1981. and I had just moved down to The Big Smoke to work co-op at The Royal Bank of Canada. But, you already know that if you have read the previous posts.

Toronto was a whole new world for me. London, Ontario….being home was a lot smaller, and there weren’t quite as many characters as there were in Toronto. It seemed that every block along Yonge Street had a whole new box full of nutters.

I was walking home to my student residence after work, having exited the subway at The Eaton Center, and deciding to walk up Yonge and stop in at Sam The Record Man and A &A Records, as I usually did. Just about a block away from the Dundas Street station I passed a young man sitting on the street, knapsack beside him, looking completely lost. As I passed, he looked up and said “fifty cents for a coffee mister?”

I stopped. I mean, I froze where I was. Not because he spoke, I was used to that by now. It was impossible to go a block on Yonge Street without some panhandler or hooker trying to catch your attention. I stopped because of one thing….this young man knew where to get a coffee for FIFTY CENTS!!!

It was 1981, and even then….coffee was over a buck everywhere you went. I turned back to him, and said “pardon?”. “Fifty cents for a coffee?” he repeated. I walked over to him, and said “O.K….let’s go. Grab your kit, let’s go get a coffee”. “What? go for a ….no…I need fifty cents for a coffee”.

Again I said “get your kit together…let’s go”. I figured this kid knew the only place you could get a coffee for fifty cents in Toronto, and I wanted in on that secret. “Get your friends…I’ve got twenty bucks….let’s go….coffee is on me”. I grabbed his knapsack and he pulled away.

“What are you ….crazy? Leave me alone. ” he said. “No way…c’mon…get your friends, I’m buying….I can’t get a coffee for that price anywhere….show me where”. By now, he had gotten up and was walking away, yelling that I was mad, and to leave him alone. People were starting to gather…I didn’t care. Undeterred, I followed him….”show me….show me” I yelled. “Fuck off you crazy bastard”….he yelled back.

People were laughing, but, I wanted cheap coffee. As more people started to gather, it gave him his chance and he started to run….I chose not to….I figured it would bring the wrong attention to the situation. Besides, he was in runners and I, in leather soled shoes. Also, chasing a young man down Yonge Street at any time of day yelling “Show me….show me”….is probably not a good thing.

So, I stopped, went into Sam’s and from there headed home. I didn’t leave the store until well after an hour, having figured it would be a while before the crowd dispersed. I never did get my fifty cent coffee.

roger

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