Seven years ago, I stood in the express lane at The Big Carrot. A gregarious middle-aged man with a silver beard said my total and, within the same breath, connected it to a historical fact. To this day, I don’t remember the number or the fact, but I do remember the man at the cash who piqued my curiosity. His name is David Teitel.
David and I became friends on Facebook and started corresponding through email. We spoke on the phone and started hanging out. We shared a love of movies, but, more importantly, we enjoyed each other’s company. David loves to explore the city, and together we went on a few day trips where David pointed out architecture I hadn’t noticed before.
A year prior to meeting David, I had graduated from the Film and Television program at Sheridan College. I wanted to make my own documentary and was looking for a subject and a human story that greatly interested me. David was flattered I wanted to make a documentary about him, but was also cautious to participate at first. He wrote me a letter about his concerns, which I’ve kept as a reminder to follow your instincts.
Over time, our friendship made it easy to start filming. I was interested in David’s life beyond The Big Carrot, so it was important to visit David at his home and to film it.
My cinematographer, Philip Sportel, and I recorded many interviews with David, in his apartment. I got to know a humble and resilient man with a dark past. A contrast to the man people encounter everyday.
What started off as a story about an eccentric cashier with a rare memory for numbers gradually evolved into a human story of struggle, growth, healing and success.
While David experienced struggles and grappled with mental illness as a young man, he was able to find work that he enjoyed even if it wasn’t what he had been groomed for. Then, later, he developed a performance at the cash, which garnered him some recognition. But David was more interested in relating to others than being in the spotlight despite having the charisma and personality of a performer. What I love about David’s story is that he’s an unconventional success. I hope audiences recognize David’s success and admire his strength and tenacity. I’m lucky to call him my friend, and am thrilled to share Numbers Guy with the Big Carrot and its customers.
Vanessa Jung is the director of the documentary Numbers Guy
You can watch the documentary on CBC’s Short Docs website – Click here
Read the CBC article Meet Toronto’s Genius Cashier – Click here