I had to go to the drugstore last night to pick up a new prescription for Daisy. It’s only about a half mile each way, so it wasn’t that big a deal, and after going through checkout, I did what I always do there, which is to sit down on the sidewalk… Off to the side, out of everybody’s way… And munch on some terribly unhealthy junk food, washing it down afterward with one of those Starbucks Mocha Frappuccinos that I can’t get enough of.
Sitting there, back up against the cinder block wall, I could hear off to my right a weird sound, sort of like shuffling feet. It really did make me envision one of the countless scenes we’ve all had to endure in a zombie movie. Even though I have very little remaining eyesight, my Spidey hearing is at the top of its game, and I could tell that whoever was approaching was probably about 10 or 15 feet away, but I couldn’t see them because there was a parked car that separated us.
I know it sounds silly, but I instinctively grabbed my cane and pulled it close to me on the outside chance I was going to have to give somebody a beat down in self-defense; seriously, how fucking funny would it be to hear on the news a story about some random blind old guy fighting off a zombie with his cane? Of course, once this poor bastard cleared the parked car, even I could see that he wasn’t a zombie, but once my brain assembled all the pieces I could make out of him, I still couldn’t believe I didn’t bust up laughing once I took it all in.
I wish I had thought to take a picture of this guy, but since I didn’t, I had to settle for a random Google search to use as the featured image for this entry and hopefully give you at least some visual. But what this picture doesn’t show is just how tattered and torn and beaten up this guy was. He was probably in his early thirties, covered in tattoos, and relatively presentable looking except for the hundreds of scabs all over his face and body. He genuinely looked like he had come off of a moving motorcycle going 60 miles an hour and rolled and skidded and slid on asphalt until he came to a stop a couple hundred yards later. It was clear that he couldn’t stand up straight, shuffling with his body bent over and clearly in a great deal of pain. My brain working the way it normally does, I fairly quickly went from “What the fuck is this?” to “You poor bastard.”
Hermit in general, and City-dweller in particular, that I am, I watched him walk by in silence but kept an eye on him all the same. When he saw me, he said, “How ya doin’?” to which I instinctively replied, “Good, thanks, are you okay?” and after telling me he was fine, he shuffled the rest of the way past me about a hundred feet to my left. And it is always at these moments if you have to spend any amount of time in the streets of pretty much any City, that you are suspended in time and wondering whether the guy’s going to keep going or turn back around (after he finishes thinking through his approach to get something out of you) and try to engage you again.
Apparently, a magnet for people, despite happily avoiding them whenever possible, he wheeled around and headed back my way. I thought to myself, “Well, fuck, ain’t it just my God damn lucky day?” and once he shuffled close enough to me… Clearly in pain and struggling… He squatted down and asked me if he could borrow my phone.
If you’ve ever been panhandled, you know the level of creativity these people have and the sales and marketing skills that could be put to far better use working… I dunno… like a real fucking job or something, but people are going to do what people are going to do. In this case, having heard the girlfriend’s voice on the other end and hearing them tell each other how much they loved each other, I just let the whole thing play out and walked home, thinking to myself how odd it was that, of all things to release this guy from the hospital with, he walked away with a short-sleeved paper t-shirt short sleeve. Who does that? Surely, they have clothes in these hospitals to put on the indigent before setting them out on the streets, but what do I know?