Bread, baby, bread

It started with an innocent enough thought.

It was early December, and global warming was helping make my errands along Bayview, this particular day, very pleasant indeed. (Oh, I know, I know…it’s politically incorrect to say that. But if you really want to hold someone accountable, take it up with the three people I saw wearing shorts. That’s a flagrant display, if you ask me.) And no, that isn’t the innocent thought I was referencing. It is: Today, I would pay for everything in cash.

It would force me to buy only what I needed. Nothing more. When the cash ran out, I’d be done.

With that, I walk into the bank branch on Belsize, the one that seems like it could be used as a location for a zombie movie these days. It’s locked up. Devoid of people. Lights out. But the bank machines work. It sucks in my card. And like a reverse time-machine, the touch screen comes to life to begin the computational process of doling out my analogue payment medium. The irony was not lost on me.

As the robo-teller starts whirring and flipping, I notice that, scattered about the sill of the machine are several bank-balance receipts. Why do people do this? The waste slot is just inches away. Can’t they see it? Obviously, they want people to read them. See how rich they are. Making a statement with their statements, no doubt. Pfft. Whatever.

I can’t help myself. I snatch one up and find myself glancing over my shoulder, as if committing some crime.

$900. Such an even number. Weird.

$6,308. Not bad. Pay day?

$298. Hmmm. Savings account. Maybe a kids’ fun money? OR a little secret stash…and with 20 more years of saving, it’s their escape fund for when they board a wooden ship with nothing but the frilly shirt on their back, bound for Tasmania and a new life.

$23,152!?! What the…? Bloody show-off.

The money-bot slot opens and spits out my $80.

I pocket my bread and cross the street to get my first item – bread.

Like any errand-running jaywalker on Bayview Avenue, I raise my hand to oncoming traffic because, after all, it has an invisible force field, powerful enough to stop 6,000 lbs. of Land Rover shuttling a quaffed Labradoodle on anxiety meds.

I take up my position outside COBS, in line…which is really more of a gathering than a line. One where we all try to tell each other with our eyes, “I was here first.”

I try to avoid eye contact altogether so that I might feign ignorance and thereby jump the queue. I look up at the sign and think about when COBS appeared on the scene. Their name made me think they sold corn. Not much profit in that, I thought. I gave them a month. Good thing they switched to bread. It seems to have paid off. It was then that a woman comes out in quite a hurry. Odd, since she was the one holding up the “gathering.”

“I had to pay with cash.…Who carries cash anymore?”

Clearly, she did. Either that, or she stole the French loaf she was cradling like a baby. And not just any baby, but one, the top of whose head stuck out of its paper swaddling and nuzzled her shoulder. But instead of baby slobber, it’s bread crust crumbs insinuating their way into her cable knit. Those will be hard to pick out, I think.

She brushes by us, muttering, “The machine is down.”

We knew it was really her way of apologizing for taking so long, without actually committing to the apology. But her comment does prompt an immediate reaction from those waiting for their fresh baked grain fix. On cue, everybody starts patting the front of their pants and back pockets like they were all putting out small crotch and butt fires. All except for me. I am armed with my panic extinguisher – cash. What are the odds? I am obviously a genius. The crowd starts breaking up, headed to the ghost branch’s bank machine. Suddenly, I’m at the front of the line. Next one in. My lucky day! First, global warming and now this! It’s the little things, amirite?

“What can I get you, sir?”

“I’ll have a sour dough, sliced, please, and thank you,” I beam.

“No problem.…And how would you like to pay?”

“Well,” I say, “I just happen to have cash on me….” Bam! Something isn’t right.

I frantically search my empty pockets. Now I am the one putting out a crotch fire. My head and eyes dart around the small shop’s floor like a bird searching for a bug that got away. I even check the bottom of my shoes. I stare at the person serving me, my mouth open. She raises her eyebrow, as if to ask, “You okay?”

 “I swear I had cash.…”

 “No worries, we take debit or credit, as well,” she warmly informs me.

“You take…? But I heard…,” I mumble.

I am flummoxed. Embarrassed. So much so that my phone’s Face ID doesn’t even recognize who I am when I try to pay. I resort to my card, and it works just fine. I head out of COBS into the unseasonably warm December air, but it doesn’t feel so good, anymore.

Scanning the ground for any sign of my money, I hear a woman, in the background, talking on her cellphone speaker from inside her car. It’s muffled but loud enough that I recognize the voice. It’s the bread baby lady! She is just pulling out of her parking spot in front of Badali’s, and driving away, but not before I hear…

“And there it was just lying on the ground…80 bucks! I know! Who carries cash anymore?”

Not one to brag, but since you’ve hung in to this point, why not; A former dolphin linguist, and otter mascot, David Crichton was a founding partner of one of Canada’s largest independent creative advertising agencies, Grip Limited. He has won multiple international awards for writing, Creative Direction, and film direction, including 2 Cannes gold lions, a Silver Kitchener-Waterloo Kiwanis Club Flame Trophy, and a Participation Bronze patch.