A Homeless Encounter

I stood outside the Starbucks for a smoke. It was still dark. I made sure I was far enough away from the door so as not to offend anyone entering/exiting, although the customers numbered less than at a free screening of Battlefield Earth (Google it…). Still I’m of the polite homeless ilk. I saw a dude on a rickety bike, wobbling due to possessions barely balanced which weren’t meant for 2-wheeled travel. He was familiar. I’d seen him nearly every day at this same S’bux for forever. 

His hair was gray, shoulder length, face weathered from, well, probably the weather. And behind him was a folk guitar. I’d heard the dude play a few times when I’ve been in the parking lot. He’d be off in the distance and really didn’t sound too bad. He’d stop every now and then to scream expletives, but if you didn’t mind “Teach Your Children Well” with an occasional, “Fuck YOU cocksucker!” tossed in, it was pleasant enough.

So I knew the guy had mental or drug issues, perhaps both. Since he’d never bothered me or anyone else I didn’t pay him much attention. I had my own problems to focus on.  He was riding right at me and stopped maybe 30′ away. He took out his phone and aimed the camera at me. He was doing a video. Then he started speaking…

“Look at this fucking faggot! Out here smoking his fucking cancer stick! Doesn’t give a shit about anyone else!” He was in full rant mode. My normal inclination would be to walk up and bitch-slap him back to the Summer Of Love, but somehow I maintained my calm (calm, yes. But not cool. I’m NEVER cool) and just looked towards him. “Nice bike”, I said sarcastically. “Fuck you, you fucking faggot!” he shot back. Rarely are the mentally ill original (or humorous) with phrasing, and mostly repetitive, but I could still feel my neck getting red (not Alabama-red; more like 10-minutes-too-long-at-the-pool-red). “You better leave”, I replied. “This isn’t going to end well for you”. Inside my mind was racing. If he got off his bike and moved towards me, was I prepared to snap him like kindling (did I mention he was on the scrawny side?)? The other thought, brought about by our current state in the US was, “Is he armed? Gun? Knife? Sharpened guitar pick?”. I didn’t need to wait out an answer. Apparently the dude was tired of the worst Facebook Live broadcast ever. He turned his bike around and put his phone away so he could flip me off with a final, “Goddamn faggot!”. I had reached my 3-faggot limit for the day, and my serene coffee time was ruined. I tossed down my cig and got into the trusty Camry, backing out slowly. It turns out the lunatic wasn’t finished for he swung back around and began taunting me from about 30 yards away. I looked in my rear-view mirror and could see him, screaming and flipping me off. I stopped the car in the middle of the lot and got out. I was ready to roll, at least as much as my ass would allow at my age. I figured I had about 15 good fighting seconds in me before I’d have to use a time-out. When he saw me get out, once again he turned and rode towards Starbucks, middle finger raised over his shoulder in defiance.

The next day I saw him again, and have seen him pretty much every day since inside the store. He’s never even looked my way, and I doubt he remembers the episode. I thought maybe he does this numerous times a day so it’s a lot less memorable for him than for me. Perhaps he needs a blog…

Final Note: 99% of interactions with the homeless are of the “Buddy ya got any spare change? or Got an extra smoke?” variety. This guy was a rarity, and it took all the impulse control I could muster to not deck him. 20 or even 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. It took some maturing and maybe a little influence from a friend to become more empathetic. And as more and more vets return from our numerous wars, and are discarded by our government instead of getting treated and trained to re-enter society, the problem will worsen. It’s time politicians took their heads out of the sand and stopped pretending homelessness isn’t a problem. RB

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