I was walking around Canada Place the other night; it’s finally getting warm enough to be be pretty comfortable in the evenings. I got into a conversation with an unemployed fellow who was riding his bike around the area looking for money and odd jobs. He told me he worked in the trades and things were pretty slow; he was from back east and renting a place out in Burnaby. His landlord had given him a break on his rent.
He seemed like a pretty normal, decent guy. I didn’t have any money with me, but we talked a bit about the cost of living in Vancouver, among other things.
A security guard approached: not a so-called “Downtown Ambassador,” but someone without a uniform, as I recall; I assume he was employed by Canada Place. He started giving the fellow a hard time about panhandling. I don’t know whether Canada Place is considered a public space; it seems wide open to the public, and I assume that people are allowed to talk to one another in such places, but I am not familiar with the legal fine points.
What struck me was that the security guard, or whoever he was, seemed genuinely stressed by the situation, his adrenaline obviously racing. I don’t think he could have been talking to two less threatening people. I told him that there was no problem, that I was just chatting to the fellow. Mr. Security then said something like, “He is always friendly with people. And then…”
He broke off and left us—stormed off, actually. But I wondered: and then what? He stabs you? Or—gasp—he asks you for money? Are people in need not supposed to be friendly before requesting help? Perhaps they should be obnoxious. Do we live in such a polite society that we feel uncomfortable saying “no” (as I did) if someone asks you nicely? Is the implication that friendliness in this situation is somehow dishonest?