Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I was surprised and disappointed last month when it was brought to my attention that friends and family had no idea who Robert Borden was. Robert Borden is no John Difenbaker, but at the same time, he's hardly a Mackenzie Bowell. I met Robert Borden today at the bank, which, along with public libraries and government buildings, is part of an increasingly small set of places where his likeness can still be found. This instantiation of Robert Borden was derived from the eighth Prime Minister of Canada like all other instantiations found at the bank, predominantly on one hundred-dollar bills. However, this instantiation was actually his great-nephew with the same name.

Like many of the other independently weathly eccentrics roaming the underground of Toronto's financial district, Mr. Borden had an excellent sense of humour and as much time on his hands as money in them. He had come to the bank to exchange a hundred dollar bill that featured his great-uncle, who he regarded affectionately as a grandfather, for two fifty-dollar bills with the likeness of that other independently wealthy eccentric, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Not all of the independently wealthy eccentrics who aren't saddled by the unpleasant business of remunerative labour are as effervescent as Borden the Younger. I thought I'd seen it all in my three years of retail employment until I saw what I saw Monday afternoon. A real-life Lyle Lanley strode into the store while I dealt with a golden boy who spent his free time at the country clubs of Antigua. The Lanley lookalike wore a white suit topped by a broad-rimmed hat with a feather on it, credibly and eerily playing the role of a turn-of-the-last-century con man. He was nasty, scowling and gave chills to all who spoke to him. He probably knew who Robert Borden was given that Borden was Prime Minister when he purchased his suit, but he unfortunately didn't know that Nike made more than one shoe, or that the servile Chinaman had been granted full citizenship of the Dominion.

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