Friday, January 14, 2011

Buona notte

Tonight I was feeling lucky.

I had a very disturbing dream last night that my doctor had handed me some bad news (I had been awaiting the results of a medical test). Instead today he told he was not concerned and not to worry. I had been having morbid thoughts about what the news might be and felt liberated by the teasing/slight rude manner in which he customarily handles my health anxieties when I called.

I felt lucky, like I had escaped something and relieved I had other less worrying things to concern myself with tonight.

As I am leaving for Out of the Cold, J tells me that she saw the "Professor" on the subway. He is a tall, quiet, sober looking man who sometimes comes to the church for a meal on Fridays nights so I was thinking that he might show up. He did.

Last time I volunteered I took a job ladling out food to the servers who serve the guests. I was tired that day and I enjoyed that role but I think I enjoy the actual serving better. The people are, for the most part, very sweet, very appreciative. And I like to be busy when I'm there.

I got a pleasant surprise tonight. G., the shift supervisor, took me aside and asked me if I would consider being a shift supervisor in the near future. I was quite pleased but shocked that she thought I could do that role and expressed reservations. She asked, "Why not?" We were interrupted but it left me with something to ponder during my shift.

The group usually starts with Grace as most people appear to be religiously motivated in their volunteering. I just bow my pagan head and say nothing as Grace is said.

I see several regulars enter: The Professor, the Reader, the young man who said I looked like his sister and who sometimes speaks snippets of Italian to me, a young South American guy with these very cool dreads who seems very out of place - kind of like maybe he is on some kind of adventure here in North America.

My friend D. is washing dishes and her daughter S. is serving - an exhausting job that she does straight for two hours. Other new friends, R. and C., are serving.

Full house tonight and I am, luckily, stationed at table one which is closest to the food being served - the table is full with eight people seated, all men except for one older woman. We start with a cabbage soup with ham and white beans which seems popular. When I put my hand on the Reader's back to ask if I can clear his plate he jumps very nervously and says he was not expecting that.

The man to his right says gently to him, "Feels nice to have a woman touch you, eh?" That pretty much breaks my heart. That man is very sweet, very gentle and tries to clear his own table settings which he doesn't have to do.

The musical group starts up - and seriously - it's like a parody of a Salvation Army band playing some dispirited religious tune with a number of older people singing very sad, very old songs, out of tune. The music always irks me. Why does anyone affiliated with OOTC  assume the assembled group wants to hear these morose tunes?

I am more comfortable with the clientele now and can chat a bit more freely which puts people at ease a bit I think. I serve the Salisbury steak with gravy, roast potatoes and beans and carrots family style which means in large bowls placed with ladles on the table. The food goes quickly (except for the veg) as expected.

The Reader quizzes me with a quote from an old movie - do I recognize it, he asks? No, but he seems pleased when I remember who was in it.

The two women on security look a bit formidable but when I compliment one on her hair, she breaks into a lovely smile and her whole face changes. Should trouble arise there are several Dixon Hall staff who are meant to handle any issues. Apparently, this is a very rare occurrence. As I said, people are, for the most part, very polite, very appreciative.

Half the table leaves early leaving only four for dessert - a very delish looking apple pie with vanilla ice cream. When I ask one older man in a toque how he liked the pie he says, "It was great but too small!" So I sneak him an extra piece.

As I clean up, the South American boy with the cool dreads calls me over and tries to tell me's about (I think) most people in this city being filled with an angry spirit. Meaning me? I hope not, I feel oddly calm and positive when I am there.

We clean up in teams, I am assigned tables one through four, a very sweet faced teenager helps me - we wipe the tablecloths, disinfect them, fold them, put the tables away, put the mattresses out for the overnight guests. I am tired but not unhappy. This little pagan is blessed, absolutely blessed. And I am smiling as I leave.

"Buona notte!" my young friend says to me in Italian as I am leaving. It is indeed.

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