Rob came home from work one evening last week and asked me to add toothpaste to the Costco list. Periodically I venture into the warehouse for staples and as I hadn’t made a run in months (and am concerned about rumblings concerning inflation on the eating front), I was steeling myself up for the experience. This involves days of list making and trying to decide which day of the week is least likely to be totally ruined by spending a chunk of it in transit, navigating an overly large shopping cart among the shopping warrior class and realizing as I perused the goods that I’d forgotten to list about half of what I really needed and that as a result the cart was getting too heavy for me to push.
“You’re out of toothpaste?”
He prefers the organic brands and Costco is not into organic toiletries of any kind.
“No,” he said. “It’s for work. It’s charity month and we are putting together baskets for the homeless.”
By “we”, he meant the female engineers because anything even remotely unrelated to the process of pure engineering he now has enough seniority to ignore almost completely, and despite being a women friendly workplace, my husband’s employer is as traditional as any other when it comes to these things. Social committees, charity drives and off-site celebratory gatherings still are majority off-loaded on the females because we have the proper DNA for these types of tasks.
“Toothpaste?” I asked, thinking that if I were one of the legion of homeless that roam the metro of Edmonton, toothpaste would not make my wish list.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“Because what the homeless really need is a basket of personal hygiene as opposed to something more useful?”
He frowned, “I guess so. I don’t know. I was told to contribute toothpaste.”
“Not mittens? Or a gift card to Timmy’s?” which to me seemed the more logical. “Cuz if I was homeless, a basket of assorted soaps and toothpaste would be taken as a judgement of my cleanliness.”
Because it totally is.
Handing out swag bags of this nature might make Whyte Ave smell better from the point of view of the local residents but it will hardly relieve them of the burden of negotiating the gauntlet of panhandlers or reduce the number of bike thefts.
“A really good basket for the homeless would have warm socks and a bag of loose change,” I said.
“That’s cold,” he said.
“That’s real,” I replied. “Where are they going to brush their teeth anyway? The transit station?”
They do, by the way, use the washrooms at the transit stations. At the transit station closest to the Fort, usually only one of the two washrooms are open on any given day and the line up of homeless washing up every morning pretty much discourages all but the most desperate commuters from bothering to queue up. Although I will say that most of the homeless men are pretty nice about letting you line cut because they aren’t in any hurry.
Fast food places and groceries are also well-known venues for hygiene for the homeless. The washroom at the local Safeway is a place best avoided in the few hours after it opens until someone from the store has a moment to get in there and clean.
“Maybe they can trade the toothpaste with a homeless family for something more useful?” I added.
“So you are saying that giving toothpaste to the homeless is not the best choice?”
“Well, it’s a veiled judgement and unless one can it eat or sell it on some oral hygiene driven black market, I can’t see the point.”
“The homeless deserve good teeth too,” he reminded me.
“On Maslow’s hierarchy I think good teeth fall low on the priority scale when weighed against long underwear and a shopping cart from Wal-Mart with a decent set of wheels on it.”
“We should be giving them shopping carts?
“Or bikes with baskets,” I said. “But I still think just a big jar of loose change would make the day of a homeless guy most of all.”
He shook his head, “I’ll pass your thoughts along to the committee.”
Trouble with these charity committees is that they are headed by people for whom being homeless is only a theory that they deal with once a year.
“What would I want if I were homeless?”
Toothpaste, of course. Something with tartar control and a whitener.
As we are already into fall up here, I would want cold weather accessories. Thermal socks? Or toothpaste? Not even really a tough call.
And change. Toonies or Loonies preferably but smaller stuff buys things too.
But they would just spend that on booze or drugs.
Sure, but they eat too. Just like we do, and you can’t barter with toothpaste at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s.
All week Rob has been bumming coinage and paper off me because like the Queen, he never bothers with hard currency unless forced. We’ve contributed a fair bit to this year’s charity efforts at his company. The toothpaste is the only thing that rankled, however, as it feels like money that might as well have been put to the flame. I just have visions of perfectly good tubes of it being summarily dumped in one of the many trash receptacles that line the River Valley path system.
But, no one asked me, so I scouted out a couple of multi-packs of Colgate, and Rob dutifully turned them in.
It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment.
- Homeless advocates continue to pound the table and yell (journeyamerica.wordpress.com)