Earlier this month there was a flurry of stories in the media about a 47-year-old courier who wanted an income tax deduction for the extra food he needed to meet the physical demands of his job. His case went to court and was thrown out
What intrigued me more than the fine points of income tax law, however, was the courier himself. He’s never had a car. Never even had a driver’s licence. He has spent 15 years in the prime of his working life on foot, or on a bicycle, in the heart of downtown Toronto. How does someone like that look at life and the rest of us?
His name is Wayne Scott, and even though his back is gone — a year ago he crushed a spinal disc when he fell during a delivery — and his shoulder was so badly injured during a biking accident seven years ago that he switched to being a foot courier, running from delivery to delivery, and even though one hip is finished and he had to quit the courier business this spring because he no longer had the stamina to continue, and even though he now has no job, no unemployment insurance, no workmen’s compensation and no prospect of a pension other than what the federal government will eventually give him . . . despite all this, he’s happy.
« I’m not really worried about what I’m going to do next. Something’s going to come up,’’ he says. There’s an exuberance, a zest to his conversation, and I ask myself how can that be? The answer, as nearly as I can make out is that he’s at peace with himself.
« I honestly think that I’ve done not a bad job with my life.’’ he says. « I didn’t pollute the planet. And my personal gain didn’t involve taking anything at the expense of anyone else or at the expense of the environment.’’
He and his wife Katherine have been together 16 years. They own their own home on Shannon Street, just behind the West End « Y’’ at Dovercourt Rd. and College St., and have an adopted daughter, Ashley. Katherine works with a personnel firm.
Scott has the tall, athletic body of a high jumper and, with a three-day growth on chin and head, he has the look of Mark Messier, the hockey player. After he graduated in his early twenties from Sheridan College as a film animator, he worked in advertising. « But I couldn’t stand doing stuff persuading children to eat cereal they didn’t need.’’ And so he quit, and after bouncing around a bit, he ended up, at age 32, as a courier « drippin’ rags and rubber,’’ as he says in one of his poems.
« It’s my generation that’s the problem,’’ he says. « They knew what was going wrong, and turned their backs on it. After the sixties they said `I’m gonna make my nut and then we’ll look after it.’
« They’ve got no sense of inner accomplishment to feel good about. That’s why they end up owning so much crap.
« I see people fighting over parking spaces tight by the West End « Y’’ so they won’t have to walk too far when they go into the « Y’’ to exercise.
« When the car came along, people got devalued. Our physicality got devalued.’’ What he discovered was the physicality of being a courier attracted him. « You’re part of the reality of life,’’ he says. Plus, « even if I didn’t make the world a better place than I found it, at least I didn’t make it worse.’’
For the time being he’s promoting musicians — « I know a ton of them;’’ and he’s producing an album for a Toronto band; and preparing a video of his own songs « with a hundred couriers in it.’’
A line in one of his songs urges people to « Uncrate the freight.’’ Get rid of mental and material baggage. « Why would anyone want anything more than they can lift?’’ he asks.
It’s a good question.