Homeless in Vancouver: Mystery of the disappearing Toad

Chris Jensen’s disappearance from the Fairview area on Wednesday evening was neither unusual nor necessarily unwelcome.

What was unusual and what caused several of South Granville’s homeless population to take notice was the fact that he went away without taking his bicycle, attached trailer, and most of his worldly possessions.

Well I’ve just seen him—darn the luck!

Only one day missing; that wasn’t much of a break, but by the looks of him he wasn’t off having a picnic.

Going going, gone

I saw Chris, who’s better known on the street as the Toad, on Wednesday morning at the Broadway and Granville McDonald’s.

He was in his usual spot inside the restaurant—his bike and trailer were in their usual spot outside the restaurant.

At about 10 a.m. he left, but just on his bicycle. He left the trailer in front of the restaurant.

It was still there 11 hours later, but then so was Chris. He brought his bike inside the restaurant and left again. Then I left.

The next morning, Thursday at 8 a.m. in an alley one block from McDonald’s, a homeless fellow stopped me in the lane.

He was manic; more-or-less at the height of a mood swing.

In the midst of a story about the icky sort of “fun” a heroin addict and crackhead could get up to in the middle of the night, he told me he’d found Chris’s bike and trailer still in front of McDonald’s after closing time, and brought the rig around into the lane and contrived a hiding spot.

Right straight ahead of me in a store’s shipping area I could clearly see half the front wheel of Chris’ bike poking straight up above a hasty camouflage of cardboard and shipping palettes. Sheesh!

What could I say?

He didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Chris any more than I did, but he just couldn’t stand by and let the guy’s stuff get taken.

I did point out that in less than an hour, the business would certainly notice the addition to its shipping area.

South Granville’s business improvement association pays a private security company to tirelessly patrol the area, which means I can generally find one of them sitting in McDonald’s.

These “South Granville Ambassadors” are easy to spot by their blue uniforms. I was explaining about Chris’ hidden stuff to one of them who said he’d talk to the store.

As the security guard/Ambassador was telling me that the bike and trailer probably couldn’t stay there, I watched over his shoulder as the other homeless guy rolled Chris’s rig along the sidewalk, past the window, and back into its spot in front of McDonald’s where he’d found it the previous evening.

A bicycle and trailer fending for themselves

There the bike and trailer stayed—after I rearranged them to the satisfaction of both the security guy and McDonald’s management so they were less of a hindrance to foot traffic; that’s when I saw that the bike’s chain was gone.

The rig sat there unmolested all day Thursday, probably until after McDonald’s closed at 1 a.m.

In the evening two of Chris’ friend’s came up to me in McDonald’s—both very polite and soft-spoken—wondering where Chris was. I explained I had no idea.

One of them had Chris’s phone—crazed glass, no back but otherwise functional, the fellow said—he’d plucked it off the trailer.

He was concerned about that. I suggested he hang onto it for Chris, just in case, but I think he put it back: the next friend of Chris’s commented on seeing it also.

By the time I arrived for breakfast I found the whole rig in the alley-side loading area of the business next door to the McDonalds. Someone had dragged it there and under the bright glare of the security lighting the trailer’s contents looked to have been repeatedly ransacked.

A warehouse guy from the business was concerned. It couldn’t stay where it was; it was blocking the loading bay.

I agreed and roughly put the puzzle back together, then rolled it over to tuck in beside a Dumpster against the back of an unleased retail building. Then I went off to McDonald’s.

After breakfast and finally awake, I took the time to detach the bike and lock it securely around the corner on West 10th Avenue. The tires were flat by now which, along with the absence of the drive chain, bode well for the survival of the bike. I admittedly left the trailer to its fate and went to cash in my bottles.

Darn. Speak of the devil

I came back into the area a few hours later and I was happily blogging on the Internet when Chris reappeared over my shoulder.

I unlocked his bike for him and left him to patch his tires and fix his trailer back up.

I had noted earlier that his sleeping bags and personal stuff had been rifled but were otherwise left alone by scavengers.

Whatever caused his absence doesn’t much interest me. He looks a bit worse-for-wear with maybe even a black eye, but he may always look that way these days—I don’t pay that much attention to him. Now I can go back to ignoring him completely.

The consideration some homeless people extend to one another in times of personal difficulty often has nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with the recognition that we all have been, and will be again, on the wrong end of bad circumstances.

It’s the natural human thing to extend one’s hand.

But it’s not like we overdo it or anything.

On the trail of Chris’ bike and trailer from Wednesday to Friday.
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