Tony Barrows lived in a basement bachelor apartment on Spence Street. This area of Winnipeg is well known for its poverty and high level of crime. Tony fit very comfortably into his present living situation.
This young man was heavy, but his excess weight was more than compensated for by the significant amount of muscle mass in his upper body. Tony had wide, powerful shoulders, strong pecs and bulging biceps. He liked to show off his upper body mass by wearing and assortment tank tops and skin -tight T-shirts. For his daily attire, Tony favored the color black as it emphasized his upper body mass and deemphasized his slight beer belly.
Tony was very proud of his impressive upper body strength, but he had come by it honestly. He didn’t have a great deal of self-discipline, but what little he had he applied to his physical training regimen.
Tony did not like doing housework or cleaning. There were more important things on which he wanted to focus his time. As Tony lived in a basement apartment, noisy heating and plumbing pipes hung from the ceiling. Although the ceiling pipes made his apartment appear even more dumpy than it already was, this cosmetic defect did not really bother Tony.
Tony was twenty-five years old, but he didn’t really have goals or ambitions that
society would hold in high regard. The last few years Tony lived in the present, one day at a time. This expression would have made Tony laugh as ‘one day at a time’ was a slogan used by most twelve step groups based on the original program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tony walked over to a small kitchen. The walls were covered by faded strips of a sickly shade of light green paint.
Making himself a smoothie was the way Tony liked to start his mornings. He, of course, had to begin his routine with a large cup of strong Tim Hortons and a few hits from his vaping pen. Tony had sold some weed to one of his friends in exchange for a high -quality nicotine vaporizer. As far as Tony was concerned he had succeeded in quitting smoking tobacco, although he still loved his cannabis.
Tony really didn’t care that much about following strict healthy lifestyle. He wasn’t one of those guys who wanted to live to age eighty. Forty years of age would satisfy Tony if he could enjoy all the forbidden pleasures of life. He only stopped smoking when he concluded that heavy smoking was contributing to his long and frequent bouts of bronchitis. When Tony suffered from a serious upper respiratory infection, he usually had to put his weight training regimen on hold for two to three weeks.
Tony had watched part of a documentary on the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and vaping. One day his friend Ron showed Tony the new vape pen and he bought at The Toke, a store that sells both tobacco and vaping supplies. Rod had a sepia colored vaping pen that produced a huge cloud of vapour. When his friend demonstrated how his new nicotine delivery system worked, Tony was immediately impressed.
There were at least twenty people in the reception area. They were all people that our society would or could not accommodate. Most successful and prosperous people would never encounter them and would only know about them on an intellectual level probably by reading about the poor and needy people via the media.
Only the truly marginalized would end up in a welfare office. Nobody could really understand this mass of unfortunates except the unfortunates themselves. Some of the most dedicated social agency workers would do some research and attempt to educate themselves about the plight of their clients. However, very few of them had personal experience with poverty, chronic disability and illness, addiction issues and homelessness.
People with some or all of there issues helped create a billion- dollar industry. The irony was that the most marginalized persons in society were responsible for creating and maintaining full time profitable employment for a substantial number of professional workers. Those in administrative positions made the big money. The front- line workers didn’t make a living wage unless they had a strong union. The needy people in the province were responsible for generating significant employment but the tax payers picked up the bill.
When Harold and Whisper arrived at the EIA building Harold opened the front door of the entrance. Both Harold and Whisper were almost overwhelmed by the strong odour of poverty and homelessness. Whisper waited in line for the welfare intake worker for about twenty minutes before the worker typed in Whisper’s personal information. After this task was completed the worker asked Whisper to find a seat in the crowded, foul smelling waiting area.
Harold and Whisper found two empty folding chairs. Harold was seated next to an elderly man who reeked of body odour and was having an animated discussion with himself. “Probably schizophrenia,” Harold thought. He had a cousin who suffered from schizophrenia and Harold was very cognizant of the manifestations of this devastating illness. Auditory and visual hallucinations were common symptoms of this chronic and persistent mental illness. To Whisper’s left was a wall with four pay phones. A dishevelled and agitated young man who appeared to be in his early twenties was growing increasingly frustrated as he was trying to call a phone number that he had misread. He started to loudly utter obscenities until a burly security guard intervened and asked the man if he required assistance with dialing the phone number.