Toronto
3 min

Getting money on the corner

I am standing at the bank machine at the TD bank at Church and Wellesley streets, where I have stood an average of three times a week for the past year — ever since I started working at The 519 — because I don’t like to carry cash around.

I spend, give or take, four minutes every time, which translates to 10 hours a year standing here, adjusting this never-ending yo-yo that is my account balance. While I wait, I tug at my hair and make sure the front hems of my pant legs are tucked under the tongues of my runners. It’s not a bad place to wait as far as they come, smack dab in the centre of the Village. In fact, I am probably not taking full advantage of this opportunity.

The view here is unmistakably gay and old-fashioned, rainbows everywhere, from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives to Proud FM to the decorated Church-Wellesley Village street signs. When I think back to my first nights out in the Village, all I see are rainbows.

Where is my rainbow belt with the GM buckle? I think I threw it out a couple of moves ago. It used to affirm me, to see it hanging in my closet at Warden and Sheppard beside my high school kilt, my dad’s polyester shirts and my hockey jerseys. That was when I was on the outside looking in.

Now that I am on the inside looking out, it feels like a tourist town here on this corner — a little happy, a little sad, new and run-down in bed together. The Village Centre, the 7-24, Pizza Pizza, Novack’s Drugstore, Ho’s Team and the Medical Compassion Clinic (what a lovely name) all in one turn of the head. It smells different here now that the KFC is gone. It often smells like fried onions from Hero Burger — especially early in the morning — plus hot dogs and traffic.

I have made out at this bank machine, at the end of a night in summer, getting money for all-day breakfast, or at the start of a night getting money for cover. One of the beautiful things about being a non-drinker is that you can make out neatly, with the same person, at either end of the night. You know where all your money is, still have your bank card and you can kiss in peace at the bank machine knowing you’ll be able to get home once it spits out your bills.

I am sure I have made out at this bank machine in the middle of Pride, during a rare break in the movement. A bank machine can be grounding. It forces focus with its prompts, beeps and little flashing lights. It can also be grounding to get your transaction statement and realize that whatever you were taking out money to do just cleaned out your account.

People sometimes stand so far back in line for this bank machine that I don’t even see them and cut right in front. I am almost legally blind; I could be standing over your shoulder and your info would be safe, so I stand a little closer.

I am sure I have lost things at this bank machine: sunglasses, umbrellas, a full cup of coffee at least once. There should never be a level surface at a bank machine; it’s like a handy receptacle for things you intend to lose.

The sight of a bank machine gets the taste of envelope glue in my mouth. Besides Seinfeld, the taste of envelope glue makes me think of paper cuts on my tongue, which makes me think of my last first-aid class when I learned that your tongue is the fastest healing part of your body. It’s a good thing, as it is also one of the most useful parts of your body.

Andrea and I found drugs once at a bank machine. Coke, I think. It was College and Spadina, not the Village, but I wouldn’t have thought the little bag would be there long enough for us to find in either neighbourhood.

My co-worker was thrown against the Church and Wellesley TD on her first day of work when a gas tank in the hot dog stand exploded. Nothing to say about that except that it was weird, and now I picture an explosion every time I stand here.

I don’t know exactly when they installed those little horizontal mirrors above your head, but they have given me a place to check my face and hair in a pinch, which is both helpful and not, depending on how bad my OCD is. It never occurs to me to spy on the person behind me. But watching them watching me watching them — it would be an interesting little loop.

I will be more thoughtful as I wait here next time. Ten hours is clearly too long to wait mindlessly. It’s part of being grateful for my ability to stand here, three times a week at a bank machine in the Village, dressed like “a boy,” financially independent, on a break from my employment, free to comment, and criticize, and conclude.

Street Smarts appears in every second issue of Xtra.