Manulife Centre, 11am

"Excuse me, you speak Cantonese?"

"Not well, but I can understand it."

(The rest is spoken in Cantonese)
"Can you come over and help me please?" He motions me towards the BMO machine in the lower concourse.

"What's up?"

His story comes out like lighting. My Cantonese is shoddy at best, but I manage to pick up the gist of what he's trying to tell me.

"I just deposited a huge cheque... a couple thousand. But now the machine won't let me withdraw a couple hundred dollars."

"So this is your bank?" I point at the BMO logo.

"Yes. I'm new [here] and I am not familiar with your bank policies. I had no idea that I had to wait a few days for my cheque to be processed before I can take money out..."


"I am hoping you can help me out."

I stare at him blankly.

"If you can withdraw $300 and lend it to me, I swear I'll write you an IOU slip. Just leave me your name, number and address and I'll send you a cheque."

"But this isn't my bank."

"You can still withdraw money. They'll just charge you $1.50. I'll add that to the amount I'll owe you."

For someone who doesn't know how our banks work, you sure caught on to the $1.50 charge pretty quickly.

"I really need the money. I have the money. I deposited a couple thousands of dollars in cheque form. I just can't get at that money today. I'll be able to withdraw in a few days."

I blink.

"I need to buy a bus ticket. My mom's in Ottawa, she's ill. I have to see her."

Well gee, now that you've mentioned the sick mother, how can I possibly say no?

I wanted to tell him to go to the actual bank and deal with it. I wanted to assure him that the bus stations accept credit cards. But I just took that as my cue to walk away -- and if I hadn't been on my way to meet a friend, I would have taken a seat at the coffeeshop around the corner, just to see if this guy's plea for help would be answered.


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