Saturday, December 25, 2010

City Workers Force Low Income Man to Eat Cabbage Rolls Instead of Turkey Dinner on Christmas Day

A Downtown Eastsider who had not had a turkey dinner in several years, didn't want to miss out this year. He had been told by other Downtown Eastsiders that the Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army can be counted on to be good, and the volunteer servers are always eager to ensure people enjoy their dinner. So he headed over there today. But he got there too late; the security guard told him the dinner ended at 1:50 p.m.

Another Downtown Eastsider suggested he head over to the Evelyn Saller Centre cafeteria, "the 44". It's not free though, it's two dollars. He had three dollars and something in his pocket. His father had sent him money this Christmas but he was broke; his money got stolen. He has a mild head injury and seems to often get money stolen from his room, or he gets pick-pocketed, or "rolled" as they say. "I've been feeling jinxed", he said.

He headed over to the 44 where a female security guard in a blue "Security" jacket, young with blonde hair in a pony tail, was warmly greeting people with, "Merry Christmas", at the door. But the Christmas spirit ended at the door (except for Santa who was in the back of the Centre giving out gifts.)

The man waited for his turkey dinner in a long line-up stretching outside the cafeteria, and when he got inside, two City workers were shoving plates of turkey dinner onto the glass counter over the steam trays. People in the line-up would grab a plate as they passed, pushing their tray along. The counter is above eye level unless a person is tall, so some people have to crane their necks to see what's on the plate. Anyway, this guy saw the person in front of him take a plate of turkey so he took the next plate. "All I saw was the brussel sprouts", he said. As soon as he picked up the plate, he realized it wasn't even close to being a turkey dinner. It was cabbage rolls, two of them with tomato sauce, and three or four brussel sprouts on the side. So he went to set it back down on the counter and take a turkey dinner. "Too late," said one of the City servers, "You touched it, you have to eat it."

These servers would have known that the guy they were stickin' with cabbage rolls on Christmas didn't have a second $2 for Christmas dinner. They know their clientele. It's not uncommon for diners to have no money and have a welfare account there; the government prefers to finance meals when possible, rather than hand out cash to people who may have difficulty handling money. This guy doesn't have a welfare account, but he does eat there occasionally and he certainly looks poor. Compare the clientele to the servers who are at roughly the same educational level but make, according to a regular diner who chats with one of the staff, $22 an hour. Double that for Christmas. And their contract allows them to close an hour early on Christmas, 5 p.m., to eat with their families.

So the low income guy with the head injury ate the cabbage rolls. "They were awful," he said. He left quickly, forgetting to pick up his gift from Santa. He was edgy with his friends afterwards.

There were two witnesses to the CUPE members' cabbage-rolling this guy on Christmas. One of them was mistreated by the same two surly servers. She asked if she could have dark meat. One of the servers, an Asian woman, possibly Filipina, reportedly said, "No, we give half and half", but then proceeded to put mostly white meat on the plate, as if to be spiteful. Her co-server, an even more surly older white woman, snarled, "We don't do special orders." The woman told her that she wasn't expecting a special order, that half and half would have been fine, and that they were being pretty mean considering it was Christmas."

Then came a bit of a miracle. The guy who got cabbage-rolled on Christmas walked over to the Dug Out Drop-in centre where they were serving free coffee and pastries, and spotted a guy outside with a big plate of turkey dinner. He asked him where he got it and was told the Chinese Christians were giving them out at Potters Mission over at Hastings at Carroll St. So this guy went over there with a couple of friends and they were each served a heaping plate: turkey and gravy, lots of green salad with chopped red peppers, mashed potatoes, and in the centre of the plate, pieces of oranges, and chopped apples and banana. And a gigantic piece of pumpkin pie.

The Potter workers were able to actually communicate with Downtown Eastsiders. Like when they got questions about whether people could have an extra empty plate to cover their heaping plate of food so that they could take it out, or whether they could have a bag or a container, a female server would explain that they really preferred that people eat their meal there rather than take out. They had lots of chairs to sit in and a live band to listen to.

But the Potter's Mission dinner was not the last served to the cabbage-rolled man. He was told that if he returned to the Dug Out at 7 p.m., they would be serving a Christmas dinner. There was a long line-up along the back of the building, but it was worth it. They served him a heaping plate of food and put tin foil over the plate for anyone who wanted to take it out, as it's a small place and couldn't seat everybody. The volunteer server at the meat tray was asking, "What's you're preference, white meat or dark?" And even after one of the men helping out said they'd now served 100 people, each server continued greeting each person in the line with a warm, "Merry Christmas!"

Two cabbage rolls, and two Christmas dinners. Merry Christmas.


zed said...

I will buy his turkey. We need just to arrange a time and place

Rex Feral said...

This complex, where all that counts i9s a prime example of people working in a union. They create a God complsx in themselves and ct of this treatment and all that matters is don't rock my boat. I have be the subject of this treatment while I was a daily visitor, being cussed at and generally treated like I was bothering them by buying my food and had to interrupt them.

I no longer have an account there, where I deposited my own money monthly. If I was allowed in Carnegie, I could go there, pay more and be treated poorly there too. Isn't it funny that the free meals are generally better and you are treated with dignity [no union there]. I'm so glad that now I buy all my own food and cook my own food for very little more than the "44" charged me monthly.

What would happen to these people if we stopped using their facilities, stopped volunteering and generally left them to their own resources for even one week? Sad as it might be, I for one would love to see what happens to them. The complexes would implode, and there would be a lot of questions from the powers to be.

I have purported this scenario for years, but to no avail. Sad that the Lemmings keep falling of that cliff.

reliable sources said...


"treated like I was bothering them by buying my food and had to interrupt them."

You capture the povertarian attitude perfectly. It's an attitude that is prevalent amongst Downtown Eastside poverty industry workers.

Not only is there no accountability for that attitude but a povertarian can get promoted to the top job with that attitude.

That's what happened to Alex, a white guy with curly strawberry blond hair, who got his start as a front desk receptionist at Carnegie and was often testy and snippy with anybody who did not have power. He was a musician who was working in the poverty industry for a pay cheque. He got promoted to the director of a Carnegie spin-off, The Gathering Place downtown. The Gathering Place was modelled on Carnegie Centre; in fact Carnegie Director Diane McKenzie transferred there to set the place up and she took many Carnegie staff with her, including Alex. It got City funding too.

I was stunned a few years ago to see Alex's picture in the Province newspaper; the Province often passes off infomercials for povertarians as news articles. I will never forget the time I watched a Cree man (who's name was also Alex) from Northern Saskatchewan with English as a second language, trying to negotiate his way through Alex's rudeness at the Carnegie reception desk.

The Cree man was attempting to pick up a document from Alex that had been left for him at the front reception desk. Carnegie is funded to provide a mail drop service, a sort of general delivery service for people without stable addresses, but if Alex was on reception, he could make a person feel like they were, as you say, bothering him or interrupting him.

The Cree man was speaking in a simple way, trying to communicate what he needed, and Alex just barked at him and brushed him off. Then I watched a white friend of the Cree man try to help him explain what he needed and Alex barked again and brushed them both off. The friend persisted and penetrated Alex's barking and snapping and got him to do what he was paid to do, hand over a document to the Cree man that had been left for him. Alex had been fully prepared though to allow the Cree man to walk away empty-handed, if a third party with English as a first language had not intervened.

Just a few years ago, when I saw Alex's photo in the Province and he was identified as the Director of the Gathering place, I thought, "How many people have been f--ked over by that guy?" He did not, afterall, get a personality transplant with the promotion.

Alex may be retired now; I checked and there is a woman listed as director. Many povertarians who got their start at Carnegie have been recently coming to the end of their 20 or 25 years and are sittin' pretty on City pensions.

Anonymous said...

Oh god!
Paint us all bad bad bad because of this Alex asshole, whom I have never heard of, and don't give a shit, let alone 2, about.!!!!

Not everyone is bad!
Thank god for my union, but it doesn't give me any right to mistreat people.

So there you go, we're not all the same.

Rex Feral said...

"Thank God for my union"? Don't bullshit me! I was a teamster for years and I know that if there had been a complaint about me that the company wanted to punish me for, the union would have backed me up 100%. Every year we hear of wildcat strikes, defending some schmuck that didn't do his job properly. Case in fact; the TTC man sleeping on the job. He got a slap on the wrist and there are many of their drivers who are mean and belligerent with no repercussions. It's people like this and possibly you that prove that unions have outlived their usefulness. Thank God for my union? Thank God I have a choice not to join one or deal with companies that employ them.

Anonymous said...

So they were SHOVING the plates eh?
Nice one, keep on demonizing.

Sorry he was late, as you said, for turkey dinner.
He did get a hot meal though didn't he?

I didn't get any turkey for Christmas.


Anonymous said...

oh and NO, they do not make $22 per hour


Anonymous said...

by your use the disrespectful response "jerk" and thanking god for your union...shows your true colors...your knee jerk reaction speaks volumes, a nerve was touched.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oooooh Anon my dear,

Nothing knee-jerk about me.
I also call 'em as I see 'em


Anonymous said...

Again disrespect, I'm not your dear, so don't be so condescending.

The thing about anonymous posts is you never know who you are showing your true colors to.

But rest assured, there will come a time when you won't be so sure of your Union, or your position.

As for calling it as you see it, well, there are many of us in many places watching, there is a bigger world out there with the internet.. we see what is going just don't know it yet.

This will be a good year.