Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Desperate Times

i rode/road my bike into work today. it is a decent haul - about 43 blocks. and it is kind of ridinginthefall day where you climb on to your bike lamenting about not enough layers on your torso, hop off feeling kissed by the wind mixing with browsweat.

i even saw the same crossing guard waiting to cross kiddies at 7th and spruce. the same woman who was there last school year - always seeming to be at the end of her shift (she is never crossing anyone, just gazing off into traffic... thinking about her next job? does she go inside the school and become a hall monitor? or does she do something totally unrelated like, go to her own office, the one that is especially there for her because she is the CEO? it's gotta be something in between. i wish i had the attention span to be a short story writer.).

hop(p)ing off of my bike with these thoughts: generating bodycozywarm through muscle movement. same crossing guard, different season = same me, different season. big lungs/big words/big stories/not so big attention span.

those thoughts are in my head/heart when a guy approaches me. Very, very blue eyes. he says:

"can i wha wha nert far wha wzrt?"

(me) "hmm"

(him, gesturing with hands and forearms now, which are dirty and scared. or, come to think of it, maybe just dirty. or just scared.) "can i wha wha nert far wha wzrt?"

(me, stepping into him one step closer, by kind of with the safety restraint stance i learned at the group home - front leg and foot pointing toward the person, your weight on your back leg, with its foot perpendicular. good balance this way...) "wait. say again?"

(him, head down) "i thank you for you humor. i'm sorry. i don't know how to do this. i am working cleaning out these buildings here. and, well (hands shaking now, as well as his voice...) and, well, someone stole my lock box and, i'm sorry but, i need to get back and....

(me - a bit impatient, a bit get to the point, a bit not being about to handle this guys shame at his situation - say...) "what can i do for you bud?"

a pause is required here. because, i know that anyone that i ever, ever, lived in a city, can really just insert their own location, day, time and dialogue into this situation, and get to the same point, and come to the same set of swirly and twirly questions:

do i give this guy money?

is he shaking out of nervousness because, as he says, he has "never had to do this before," (i.e. ask for spare change)?

or is he shaking because he is an addict?

let's return to the dialogue:

(me - a bit impatient, a bit get to the point, a bit not being about to handle this guys shame at his situation - say...) "what can i do for you, bud?"

(him) "well, i really just want to get back to (location uttered indecipherably, something about north philly...)."

(me) "i can give ya a couple of bucks" (sticking my hand in my pocket, pulling out a five and handing it to him)

(him) "How can i return this to you"

(me, putting my hand gently on his upper arm) "just get home safe, ok?" (turning, walking away)

what he needed it for, i will never be sure. but i was feeling like giving, and he was clearly in pain. and feeling very ashamed. maybe he will get high. maybe he will get on a bus.

and either way, disastrously, he will, alas, get home.

and then. to my inbox:

To: All ISD

Subject: Panhandler – beware

High priority

This morning on Market street a panhandler tried to go after and grab a man who would not give him money. He then came after me. I did report him to the police but he ran down Market street. I have also seen him in this area before panhandling.


He is about 6' 2" and is wearing a white baseball hat, light blue tshirt, dark blue shorts and white sneakers and is carrying a dark blue tote bag. He also has very blue eyes.

I don't want to alarm anyone but just be on the lookout.


Thanks.

mr. customerservice


i'm going to spend some time on this site today:
The Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness