Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Brother, Can You Spare a Blessing?

2:26 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Living where I do, I now regularly meet with a most pesky form of individual: the panhandler. Especially on our street, but often also on walks, I will be approached by individuals asking me for money, with cigarettes being the second most favourite request.

There is always a pattern when they approach, such that, anytime now when I hear the phrase "sir, may I ask you a question," my internal dialogue responds "here we go again." Before any mention of money is made, I am given the first story. This story establishes why the person is in such dire straits. The variety of stories I have heard on this front are quite remarkable; this is the basic story, meant to engage. They may not have eaten in five days. They came to the city to visit family, but their family was gone when they got here. They are gathering money for a sick family member. There are many initial stories.

The interest always comes with the details. It may just be perverse curiosity, but I always listen. No. That is not quite right. When it came right down to it, if I was genuinely convinced of the person's situation and honesty, I would probably give them something. On the other hand, if the person is a liar and shows persistence in trying to get something, I would prefer they have to engage with me, rather than wait around for Mutti, Dogmeat, Jacqui, John, or Emma to walk past. The more reluctant they are to go about their business and let me go about mine, the more certain I am that I will see them leave. As it stands, I am yet to be convinced of the virtue of the asker, and that in large part due to stage two.

Stage two begins with me denying that I have anything with me to give, a detail which is always true, as I never carry cash around with me. This does not deter them. Their first question after that is always whether I could go to the house or bank and get some. I always improv the answer of that one based on where I am and my situation. My eventual denial always leads to a next round of stories, upping the ante.

The tone of these stories is never quite so desperate as the first round, and often goes back to the hardness of humanity and their inability to catch a break, the obvious implication being that I do not want to join in with that sad tradition. The details begin to pile up at this point, and I count the contradictions as the come. It never takes long.

This morning, story one had him having arrived from Alabama to find his family, who he was supposed to be staying with, was evicted from their rental property. He now needed money to get back to Alabama. His family he could not find a trace of. I had seen him on his cell-phone, but apparently he did not know the phone numbers of this family he had been coming to stay with.

Never call attention to the unbelievability. Never voice doubt. Keep your tone perplexedly helpful. But they always catch themselves in their own net, and multiply their own discomfort by the obvious incredulity of the story.

Later, during story editing and expansion phase, he had just got off the greyhound from Indianapolis, where he had been for the last nine months. The details he gave me about that stay--or supposed stay, as I already had reason to believe, from information evinced from him by trickery, that he as indeed a Fort Wayne native--are tedious and typical and need no repetition. The key detail is that he was, according to him, in Alabama and Indianapolis at the same time.

The last line after this usually involves lots of religious talk and bargaining with air. Firstly, if I bless them, then God will pay it back to me twice. And furthermore, they will also pay me back twice, once --insert opportunity here--pays off for them. It only gets less believable as time goes on.

If this person stops me in front of my house, as happened earlier, my preferred approach is to allow them to make their pitch as I walk them away from where I frankly do not want them. Walk with me toward Rudisill, my love. And, when it turns out they are lying, I play my part and insinuate the idea I want them to get: you will have more luck elsewhere and should probably leave.

I have become pretty darn good at getting this last one across as innocuously and clearly as possible. The one time it appeared that someone intended to hang around and wait for others after I got this across, I just sat and watched him, pointedly. He then took off and we lived happily ever after.

Being constantly outside and walking around, I am exposed to this more than usual. It probably also stems from living in one of the nicer hoods in the hood. Modest property values. People have something to give, but it isn't like walking into Old Mill where you will get Jupiter and Mars sicced on you.

Anyway, I know there are truly desperate people in this city, and people that need help, but it is not these people that I am running into. The people I run into have the delivery of experienced salesmen and often wear expensive shoes, they openly tell you that they would be as happy with a check as cash, as they take another draw on their cigarette. Sometimes you find them chatting up someone else days, or weeks, later. No joke, but the story had changed.

My last issue is purely instinctual. Some of these people are like amusing nuisances, but others make me uneasy, and I am seldom uneasy for no reason.

In the end, do I have trouble with people asking for money. No. But if you are going to ask me for money, either 1) I better know you, or 2) one of my good friends or family members better have recommended your cause to me. And lastly, and most importantly, do not give me any bullshit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Waiting for Departure.

11:34 AM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
I must clock in at work in just a little more than three quarters of an hour. For some reason, one entirely unknown to me, I find it difficult to relax in the time before I leave for the day. I will work somewhere between eight and nine hours, and instead of using the last hour beforehand, I always blow it on restless pacing, interwebz surfing, or staring off into space.

No matter what I do, I can be fairly certain that I will not really enjoy it. I am always glancing at the clock--much more often than I really need to--and counting the minutes until I need to leave. On the bright side, I am never late. On the negative side, this has become something of a major time suck for me.

I am going to try, however brief the time I am given for the task, to spend these restless moments writing from here on out. I have neglected to restore my old hard drive, so I am cut off from all of my old stuff for the time being, but I can go ahead and start again, start fresh.

Three minutes have passed.

I spend entirely too much of my time anymore just expending restless energy. I am to the part of the vacation where I have begun to miss school. When I have this much free time it becomes far too easy to squander it. I would never have wasted an hour of open time toward the end of last semester. My time management skills go down the tubes when I do not really need them. I could probably pick up a few more hours at work, but I truly loathe the mall, and I have a feeling that it would only drive me to want to quit. 30+ is ok for the time being.

Have considered the possibility of looking at other options, but realistically, I am not likely to find anything that pays as much, that is as flexible, or that will look better than holding a job consistently for more than three years.

Five.

I really need to actually use a calendar consistently. I fail to keep track of my days and then wonder where a week went. Also, reading is a damn fine use of time, but I suppose I also need to cut a chunk out of that time to keep in touch with people. I have kind of neglected everyone I do not come into contact with on a daily basis, and it would probably be a good thing if I made a few phone calls to catch up...maybe skype them. I like to see faces.

Did call that Shewoof today though. I need to reestablish my habit of calling here regularly, even if I don't quite manage it with everyone else.

Seven.

Another prime use of this time would have been harassing Dogmeat in the middle of whatever he was doing, but he is already off at work--the industrious little critter--as he often is when I am leaving for one of my endless, evening-gobbling, shifts.

It is not dread that makes me waste time before I need to go. Indeed, it is always with a certain feeling of relief that I finally set off, but I should dearly like to diagnose why it always turns out so.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Place Unmapped.

1:02 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
Maps give the illusion that there are no more secrets, that everything has been discovered, and that all is well ordered. But there are places and things that those maps do not show. I know. I have been there.

This morning I left home with the intent of finding Immanuel Lutheran Church, where my friend Winston would be preaching. I left home in plenty of time to get there and mingle before the service. Unfortunately, I knew but loosely where I was going, and I did not have any maps in my car.

After a smooth beginning on the wide, well marked, roads of the city, I departed onto the infinitely wilder, narrow, arrow straight yet somehow winding, roads of the country. The signs became smaller, and went by much too fast for a careful perusal. Despite my great care, I was soon lost on the back roads, little more than a single lane wide, with not another soul in sight for miles.

It was there, lost in the fields of Indiana, that I found a place not marked on maps. A strange and wonderful place, which may be found only by those who get lost on an early Sunday morning.

I had found a land where there were no posted speed limits, wide open sight-lines, and not a soul around. Time stood still as I swept past it, covering distance in a way that maps--or at least Google maps--would tell us was impossible.

With nothing but my sense of direction to guide me, and with a rapidly dwindling tank of gas, I realized that I would never make it to my destination without a resupply. I count it a stroke of divine providence that one of my wrong turns took me right into Hoagland. With a fresh tank of gas, I returned once more into the wide unknown of roads whose names are forgotten, and whose traffic is apparently too light to attract state troopers.

I barely made it in time, and was seated only just as the service started. Things happened thereafter, one of them being a sermon by Winston, which was followed swiftly by me slipping out to return to the city.

This time, the apprehension which I first felt when I found myself on these narrow, aged, tracks had disappeared. There was only anticipation and exhilaration. With windows down and music up, I soared along the strange paths with a familiarity I had previously been lacking. I knew their twists and turns; their secrets and hidden ways. I followed them until at last they yielded me back to civilization. I was sorry to leave them, but the magic of the place rested in the early solitary morning. As the world woke, that place would disappear one way or another.

Far better to leave the trail with its magic intact, than to watch it fade around me.

For a little while I wandered in the place with no speed limits, sometimes lost, sometimes certain. It was the adventure of a morning. I found a place that is not on your maps, that is not on any maps, that exists only fleetingly, and that reveals itself only to the wanderer.