It was a typical midweek witching hour; frosh week had begun and there were undergrads chatting it up next to me; a homeless man was shuffling around behind me (he wasn't drunk, he said, he just had two broken legs); not a streetcar in sight.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young guy standing a bit back from the street, swaying as he peered into his wallet. After a few minutes of that, he approached me.
I said hello, and he said, "Where are we? Downtown . . . London?"
"No, Toronto," I said, hoping he meant London, Ontario.
"Oh man," he said, "This isn't where I wanna be."
I did the natural thing, and asked him where he wanted to be. He had difficulty answering the question, saying that he thought downtown would look different.
"I wanna go home," he told me. "My shins hurt and I wanna go home."
At this point, I figured I may as well play along and pretend that we were having a coherent conversation. I asked him where home was and again, he had difficulty answering the question. Then he changed tactics. He wanted to be somewhere where no one could find him, he said. He eyed my cupcake caddy, and I asked him if he wanted a chocolate cupcake. (What?? I'm nice!!)
He declined, saying that he "knew cupcakes." He knew what they were like. He wanted something different.
At this point, I was about to direct him over to Queen West, as there is a lot of hipster "different" over there, when he offered me a credit card.
"I want you to take this," he said, "so they can't follow me."
"I think you should keep that and use cash to get where you're going so that they can't trace you. Once you get rid of that," I replied, indicating the card, "it'll be really hard to get back. You should keep it until you're sure."
"You're right, you're right," he said.
I thought about putting him in a cab and sending him home, but I didn't see any ID in his wallet -- and thought that if he was like most college students, that address wouldn't be where he was staying anyway. We continued talking in circles for another few minutes, when I saw a streetcar approaching.
"Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?" I asked him.
"Are you sure?"
"Do you know how to get there?"
"Are you sure?"
"I think you should go there now."
I started to head toward the streetcar, and he flings $5 at me.
I'm not sure what happened, I'm not sure who he was, I'm not sure if he was rewarding me for not taking his credit card, or if he was just some 19 year old, hepped up on goofballs.
In any case, I picked up the $5.
It was very, very random.