A Return to the Weird on Princess Street

I began this blog as a way to record the strange things that I witnessed on my daily walks through my neighbourhood, known as the poorest postal code in Canada. Over the course of the last year, though, what I had perceived as strange before have become mundane. I was a fish out of water, but I’ve since grown lungs. 

I still see strange events, often comical, sometimes disturbing, but I see them so often that I hardly notice them anymore. But occasionally, something out of the ordinary does happen that’s worth recording. Like today, where I was robbed by a transgendered person at the children’s library.

My morning had been as normal as any other Thursday. I dropped off the girl at her preschool, which is in the same building as the primary school, a community centre, a library that is both school library and part of the Vancouver Public Library system, and a dentist. The building is south of Hastings, so, despite being in the same postal code as our house, it has a safer feel. My daughter’s best friend lives next door to the school and on the same street as us, but south of Hastings. Her mother, despite living in the neighbourhood for several years, did wonder aloud to me what it might be like to live four blocks north, as if it were a different town altogether.

Nevertheless, one can see Hastings from the library steps and so it is a false sense of security. It is how I left myself vulnerable this morning. I took the boy for a walk on a few errands, including a trip to my new favourite butcher (where, without fail, we see the local firefighters buying meat every day we go). After our errands, we dropped our groceries off at the house, gathered some due books into a shopping bag, and went back to the community centre to wait for the girl’s school to finish. On Thursdays, one of the librarians hosts a baby time book start program so we sat in on that. Just as I normally do, I parked the stroller in the hallway and left our coats inside it.

When it was time to head downstairs to pick up “sister” we excused ourselves from the baby time and I noticed the empty shopping bag on the floor next to the stroller. A lot went through my mind. I wondered if someone, like a tweener from the school, took the bag and threw it on the floor as kind of a weird prank (something I would have done at that age). Then I noticed that my coat was missing and wondered if I left it in the library. One of the librarians noticed that I seemed a little panicked. I told her that I thought my coat had been stolen. We walked through the hallways and outside to see if we could see anyone that might look like they would take a coat. It was then that I realized that I had left my chequebook inside the breast pocket in order to pay for my daughter’s summer preschool (such a keener).

 As we wandered the campus, I saw through a briefly opened door, by some small miracle, a woman carrying my coat over her arm. The librarian offered to take the boy so I could pursue her. I ran after her down a flight of stairs and she claimed, quite convincingly, that she had found it in the women’s washroom and was taking it to the desk of the community centre for anyone who might be looking for it. I rummaged through the pockets and couldn’t find my chequebook. 

The woman claimed she saw another woman leaving the washroom as she was going in. I asked her what she looked like.

“She had poofy red hair and a multicoloured pants. Kind of low cut.”

“Was she wearing glasses?” I thought I saw someone with that description, but with glasses.

“No. She had a, kind of a halter-top on.”

I tried to process this information so that I could seek the woman out. I asked again her description.

“I don’t know how else to say this, but, she was dressed kind of trashy,” the woman said apologetically.

“Okay,” I said, and ran back up the stairs.

One of the PE teachers for the school asked me, “Are you looking for her?” He pointed up the street toward Hastings. A woman in tight, low cut, multicoloured pants, and poofy red hair was walking on the sidewalk a block away.

“Yes!” I said and started running.

“Do you want me to follow?”

“Yes!” I said.

I caught up with her and first noticed that her shapeless butt was peaking out of the top of her multi-coloured stretch pants. I demanded she return my chequebook.

She claimed she didn’t know what I was talking about. Her hands were as large as mine, but meatier; I can palm a basketball. Her nose was as large as mine (large). And her voice was as deep as mine (baritone), but smoke damaged.

She told me I could call the cops, but she didn’t have anything of mine. I looked at her open handbag. There were several items in it, sticking out of the top. I didn’t see my chequebook. She started to walk away and though I shouldn’t have, I touched her formidable shoulder and demanded my chequebook. “Get your hands off me,” she said. I apologized, but insisted.

The PE teacher was a half block behind me and yelled that he had called the cops. I relayed that to her and she said she didn’t mind. I continued to insist on getting my chequebook back (without touching her). By now we were at the corner of Hastings and Princess. I didn’t see any cops coming. The PE teacher said they were coming again.

I lowered my voice. “I promise I won’t press charges. I don’t care that you took it, but can I have my chequebook back?”

She said, “Fine, I can’t use it anyway.” She moved aside the bulk of items overflowing from her handbag, pulled out my chequebook as if she had its placement memorized and gave it to me.

“Thank you,” I said and walked back to the school, meeting the PE teacher along the way. I looked at the chequebook to see how many cheques had been taken (3), and counted the number I had written in my head (rent, two months of summer preschool tuition [keener]), and then counted my blessings. I put the chequebook in my pants pocket and went back to the library to pick up the boy.

The remainder of the library baby time had been canceled because some of the moms had unfortunately misinterpreted the panicky happenings as someone’s child having gone missing. I took the boy (crying a little) and we got the girl and went back up. I had to describe the event to someone. I said that I promised I wouldn’t press charges (I’m not even sure I could now that I had everything that was mine with no injury), but, because it is a children’s library, and because it’s also a primary school, they have to file an incidence report. I noticed in our recounting of the events, several witnesses were unsure which pronouns to use in describing the perpetrator, casual in using both he and she.

We walked home for lunch, taking Princess back to Hastings. I looked for my robber, taken a little aback when we encountered another, somewhat unconvincing transgendered person, but who was much more elegantly dressed.

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About azlewis

I'm an academic living in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. I also teach at a local seminary.
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2 Responses to A Return to the Weird on Princess Street

  1. It’s clear you live in Canada. I’d never chase someone down to confront them here…

  2. I can tell you live in Canada. I would never chase down someone here…

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