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The Bottle of Wine

posted at 1:17 am
on Nov. 14, 2012

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I bought a bottle of wine today from a homeless man.

I don’t know if he’s really homeless, but he opens the door of the parking garage all day every day for people going in and out, and it’s unlikely he has any more money than what’s in his pocket at the end of the day.

He wears mungy boots, brown pants, a long, avocado-green jacket that comes down to his thighs, an beat-up, brown Aussie hat that keeps the rain off, and four days of stubble, and today was his birthday.

I know this because last Friday, as I went into the garage, he asked me, “Hey, you want to get drunk with me on Tuesday?”

He and I, see, we have a rapport.

Because of this rapport, I said, “Sure!” but then asked him why Tuesday.  He said, because it would be his birthday.

Makes sense.
I was touched he’d invited me to share in his celebration. He told me also that he’d informed the local police—and at this point he gestured to the cop car across the street parked in front of he Starbucks—that he might be a little rowdy and that they should exercise a little compassion should he require firm guidance.

Perhaps that’s why I was invited, too—to be the voice of reason. Or perhaps he thought I needed to let loose and have a bender.  Either way, I suppose, would work for him.

So today, as I was going in, I said happy birthday, and expressed surprise that he was still on the job.

He said thanks, he hadn’t celebrated yet, and asked if I’d be joining him, but I had to meet Susie at our place right after work, so I had to decline, though the offer was at that moment rather attractive.

He shrugged, and then he offered instead to sell me a bottle of 2011 Sumac Ridge Gewurztraminer which he revealed from the pocket of his long, green coat.  I didn’t have any cash on me except a $50, and I decided it was just not de rigueur to ask him to break such a large bill. The two folks coming into the parking garage behind me didn’t want to buy it either.

“Why are you selling it?” one asked.

“I don’t drink wine,” he said, which seemed to me to be a rather unlikely dietary restriction, but who am I to argue.  I felt bad I couldn’t give him anything, but I wished him well and walked into the elevator.  I went up to my car and dug through the change cup to see what I could come up with.

I found a total of $6, and so just after exiting the garage, I pulled over to the curb and he immediately came running up.

“I knew it, I figured you’d stop on yer way out, buddy,” he said.

I gave him the $6 and said Happy Birthday. He smiled sheepishly.

“Is that wine still for sale?”

“Absolutely,” he said, and smiled toothily, and handed it over.

I don’t know if I took advantage of him, or if he took advantage of me.  But it made me feel human, to have a genuine interaction with someone, to share a story and a birthday, and that’s a good feeling in November in Vancouver.



 
 

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