My needs were simple: Bread and cheese. Buffalo mozzarella in a sea of oil and a stiff baguette. And so I leaned my bicycle against the brick wall on Queen Street, beside “Andy’s Family Restaurant” frequented by drunks, and stepped through the chrome doors of the recently opened Leslieville Cheese Boutique.
It’s a tiny shop in a changing community. There was barely room for the three of us beside the olive bins, tapenade, and anchovy paste. Two of we three were uniformed police officers waiting for their sandwiches.
The voice on Cop #1’s radio phone broke the silence: “Suicidal female, age approximately 40, at Shirley’s restaurant, Danforth and Dawes Road. Call just in from fellow patron’s cell phone.”
The officers looked at one another, shrugged, and Cop #2 said: “Well I’m hungry. Let’s wait for the sandwiches.”
Another call came through a minute later, repeating the message about life and death, distress and desperation.
“Huh? No identification? What are we supposed to do?” said Cop #1 to Cop #2, “Are we supposed to go up to every lady in the place and say ‘Hi there, are you suicidal?'”
They waited. Sandwiches were being constructed for them off-stage and so I was next at the counter. The server asked me my order.
“I think they’re first,” I said, nodding to the police officers.
“Oh no, we’re fine,” said Cop #1, thanking me kindly.
“I’m worried about that woman,” I whispered to the server.
“You mean that message? Yeah, I know, me too.”
I tossed the cheese inside my bag, tucked the bread under my arm and scooted out.
Later that night I chanced to speak with a criminal lawyer at my brother-in-law’s retirement party. I told her about the cheese store incident and she said the police officers were fine to wait, that these calls came through to all cars and whoever could, would attend to the suicidal female, aged 40. I guess that made me feel better.
“But there’s not much they’d be able to do for that woman anyway,”she added, reminding me of the lack of resources in this city for potential suicides.
“She’d probably be taken to a hospital, assessed in about a minute and then sent on her way. They rarely make room on the psych wards anymore.”
In summary: the hungry must be fed and the pleas must be answered. Toronto must continue to be a livable city.
And what good, I ask you, what damned good is a 415 word blog posting anyway?
Not much. Still, it’s nice to focus on the man at the neighbouring table who placed the call.