I live in Rosedale, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Canada.
Today, I went to buy a pepper. A red pepper from Summerhill
Market, our only supermarket in walkable distance. I wish I could
bring a lapel camera in there one day. The social interactions that go
on in that place are fascinating. You can see the most
plastic-surgeried women in Canada in their natural habitat, smiling
in their unnatural Botoxed way, chatting about their latest stilettos
Summerhill Market was founded in 1954, and the
man who slices their meat is an Italian man who learned meat-cutting
from his father 15 years ago when he was a young boy, and hasn't
stopped since. It is the sort of place that sells 18 types of bottled
water, but no grilled cheese. If you're looking for a $28 rolling
pin made out of only the most endangered species of tree, you've come
to the right place. Tinned beans? Probably out of luck.
through their produce section until I can find the pepper section. I
rip off one of those silly plastic bags, and choose my pepper. I
carefully walk around the loose-knit group of three or four
particularly Botoxed women chatting, skin stretched so tight it looks
like it’s been bunched up at the back and held in place with a binder
clip. I make it to the cash desk. The woman in front of me in line was
there with her teenage son, buying around $180 of groceries with her
Visa Gold Preferred card.
The woman who founded Indigo,
Heather Reisman, lives a brief walk away from my house. She’s married
to Gerry Schwartz, who founded CanWest and is a director of
Scotiabank. On her husband’s birthday a few years ago, she bought him
a Porsche. I’m told that they rent a century-old “summer house” in
Nantucket, though they may have stopped doing that once they bought
their Palm Beach house. Or when they built their Bel Air one.
the cashier is scanning through her $180-worth of groceries, she
notices that I have but a single red pepper. She glances over at me and
inquires if I plan to live off red pepper. I have no idea how to
respond, so I nod politely. When she notices that I am going into my
pocket for actual money in the form of around 17 quarters (my red
pepper cost me a little over $4.00) she actually scoffed. "Real money!
Pah!" she must've been thinking. "My money is on this bit of plastic!
It’s the way of the future. What a techno-peasant this kid is."
have a subway stop, Rosedale, which is the 9th least-used subway stop
in Toronto. Mostly the passengers on our bus route (#82) are private
school students and nannies.
The cashier asks if they need help out to their car (it being
parked at least 20 paces away from the cash desk). Her son says that
no, they do not, as he picks up all but one of their five or six bags.
He is struggling to get the last one, so he asks his mother to grab it.
She sighs and replies, in all seriousness, that she is “quite frail”.
She is, perhaps, in her late 30s.
She proceeds to walk out,
son in tow, without having signed her Visa slip. The cashier dashes
after them with a pen. She obliges, and inquires as to whether the
cashier gave her her Visa back, as she riffles through her wallet to
check. "Yes, you must have," says the cashier, glancing back at her
cash register. Not like it would've mattered to her. She has at least
two other credit cards in her wallet that I can see from where I am
It’s my turn. The cashier looks dubious as I present
my pepper. "Is that all?" she asks. “Yes,” I reply honestly. “That’s
it.” "Just the pepper, then?" "That would be all," I reply, getting
tired of this already. She raises an eyebrow. "Okay," she says. She
weighs it and the appropriate amount of money appears on screen (if you
can call $4.01"appropriate" for a single red pepper). At Summerhill
Market, they never seem to tell me how much money they want from me.
They just wait for me to present them with some sort of card. When my
total appears onscreen, she watches me, surprised, as I count quarters
on the counter.
As she puts them, one-by-one, in her cash
drawer, ignoring me when I tell her I have given her $4.25, she offers
me an opaque, Summerhill Market-branded plastic bag in which to put my
clear plastic bag. "No thanks, I’ve already got a plastic bag," I
respond pointedly. "So you do," she says suspiciously, clearly not
amused. Her Filipino bagger asks me if I’m sure. I am.
out through the automatic door, and think about how ridiculous my
neighbourhood is. Then I jam my four dollars’ worth of pepper into my
coat pocket, and listen to Feist on my iPod as I walk home.