Homelessness, Land of Uneven Surfaces

Sir, can you spare some change?

No, but I will buy you something to eat if you are hungry.

Three minutes of trying to get her act together, finally entering the Fast Food Place where they were standing six feet from the door.

Semi dirty hair, dirty hands, face, and skin areas, clothing and bags dirty.

“I just got out of an abusive relationship…referring to meth scabs maybe?

My Daughter is with a sitter today. Okay…

It’s my day off from work today…..

I stay in a hotel, it’s forty-two dollars a night.

I’m getting section eight housing in one week ten days…eighty-five dollars a month, I can swing that.”

I place my order, less than $3.00. Their food bill adds up to $9.86!?

She suggested, “Let’s sit here?” Okay.

I sit down, she leaves to fill soda from machine. Minutes click by. I wonder if she forgot what she was doing. Her number is called, called again, called a third time.

She comes back to the table. I say, “You order is ready, they called your number.”

She gets her food, three large drinks and a sausage biscuit and sits down.

Easy slide to the bottom when you are homeless.

















“Some Woman told an employee, they can’t believe they let people like me in here. Then she tells Me, ‘I am filthy and I stink’. Why do people think they can talk to me like that, like I’m a piece of trash, and not human?”

I am thinking to myself, well the filthy comment fits, I’m in agreement with the woman about the comments. However, there is no excuse for people talking like that to anyone like that, true or not.

She takes large drink of one large shake, then another, and nods off.

“You okay?” She wakes up, starts spreading jelly on her biscuit and her hands….Nods off again. Drooling this time.


Opens her eyes, repeats section eight housing story. Nods off again. Opens eyes, “I’m so tired.”

I say, “It appears to me, whatever you have doing isn’t working to well for you, have you heard of “shelter name”.

I won’t go there! I won’t go to any shelter. They get into your business, and I don’t want that. I have been waiting two years for cheap housing, and I’m not going to blow it. I have to wait a week, and three days, and I’m in. Nods off again.

I wonder to myself if she has a week and three days left. I think it may be a coin flip.

I suggest (because she was nodding again), “Why don’t you use a different name? It would give you a chance to clean up, eat and get some real sleep.”

“Have you ever been in one of those places? You don’t know what they are like! (hmmm) How can you sit there and tell me what to do? I don’t want CYFD (Child Welfare) in my business. Why does everyone who gives me money or buys me food think they have the right to tell me what to do?

Maybe they care about you and your condition?, I’m thinking, if I were someone else, I may have paid you for other things, if I didn’t care about my health and well being….

“Are you from here, where did you grow up?”

“I was born in the xxx area, and grew up in the xxxxxxx area.” I’m getting housing in one week and three days, $85.00 a month. My own place. A bed for my daughter.” Nods off…

Opens eyes, “Did you hear a thing I said?

I repeat back what she told me, only one iteration though. “Are you sure about not getting some help, you look like you could use some good sleep.”

“I’m so tired….Why do you think you have the right to tell me what to do? I’m sick of people like you telling me what to do! Who do you think you are?” (I am thinking, ‘someone who is concerned about you doesn’t count I suppose’.)

I’ve had about enough at this point. This woman either hasn’t hit rock bottom, or she does not realize she has already crash landed, and they only place left to fall is to die. Frustration overrides my concern. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. In her case, I’m not even sure, if she knows what is going on.

“Do you have some money you could give me? Anything will help.”

“I do not have any money to give you. I spent almost ten dollars on your food. That was a lot of money for me to spend on you.“

“I only need like twenty more dollars to get a hotel room for the night…for my daughter and me. I have almost half of it.”

“I do not have any money to give you.”

She starts falling asleep again.

“I have to go now, I have somewhere to be. I truly hope the next time I see you, you have your apartment, your daughter, and you are doing well. I hope I do not see you as you are now. Good Luck, and my best for you.”

No response, or perhaps that was the response. As I drive, the conversation slowly fades away, forgotten.

Today, I am getting ready to meet someone, when crashing into my thoughts is the woman I left at the table yesterday. Almost overwhelming thoughts of her. It’s not apparent to me why she has taken over my thoughts, and what these thoughts mean. Twelve hours later, and they still haunt me, coming in lingering waves spacing farther apart, and smaller with each arrival.

Perhaps it is because she isn’t the run of the mill homeless person I am used to seeing. Most homeless people are obviously homeless, but getting along somehow, semi clean and looking like they eat enough.

This woman was skinny as a rail, no fat on her. Dirty, and nothing worth anything on her person, worn out cloths and flip flops. She had a half pack of cigarettes, and a container of bright pink lipstick she wore above and below each lip. She like her clothes looked worn out. The one bag she had her possessions stuffed into was in worse condition.

I say more than a few short prayers today for this woman. If anyone ever needed at least praying for it is her. I know she is beyond anything I can do for her. I doubt she even remembers yesterday, the meal and halting angry conversation.

Books and Conversation

Feel good conversation

Another recent observation I want to share with you. Perhaps you too are changing or you have observed these behaviors in others? We are modifying our social habits again and we want to be more physically present when talking to each other. Relationships via electronics are found lacking.

Live social interaction

From my microcosm of a coffee shop, I see social change happening quickly. We, go to our local coffee shop for social and personal interaction. I see people chatting, reading, studying, and a few texting and writing. The coffee shop is somewhere between a library and a party. Being at a coffee shop is both relaxing and socially fulfilling.

Books and magazines are growing in popularity

My favorite coffee hangouts are places with books and magazines. Conversations are active and topics change often. No point in my interjecting a comment on something if it is second or third hand delivery to start with. I find a magazine that interests me, and I wait until the conversation returns to a topic I may participate in. Magazines fill the dead space.

BooksBooks are becoming popular again

Books, judging by the numbers of people reading them, besides myself, books are making a comeback. I know a few hardcore read-a-holics” who use their electronic reader, but they are hardcore readers. They do not want to go any amount of time without a book to read. They prefer not to carry around a second book to read when they finish their first book.

Books are more durable than electronics

My book can fall off a table without hurting it. I flip through pages quickly to find what I am looking for. I enjoy holding a book in my hands because paper is warmer than metal. I can drop my book to the the floor from the bed without harming it. My book will dry out if I spill coffee on it. I can reread my book a month, year or decade from now.

No batteries required

I do not need batteries. Almost any light is good light to read by. I can use my electronics when I want to look up something I am reading about. I can loan out my book. Losing my book it is not a tragedy in the making. Book lights are cheap and plentiful. I can continue reading in most cases if my book light batteries run down.

Value in sharing books

Loaning and trading books is socially important. Donating books helps us feel good. Most book readers are part of social circles of people who also read the same types of books. Only a few people share electronic readers for obvious reasons.

Books are friendly

It feels good to trade books with someone else. Trading . Trading books leads to conversation. Talking about our books leads to conversation about other subjects. Some books are sexy in the right hands.


Plugged in and Isolated

Plugged in and isolated

I see fewer young people who are totally plugged in and alone. Those I do see have Facebook, twitter, and other social media programs on their laptop screens. Their smart phones listing unimportant unread text messages as they listen to music. They Facebook while talking to someone on their phone. And these people look miserable. Thankfully, we are getting smarter about what makes us happy, and too much electronics is not it.

We are both physical and social animals

We are social creatures, but we are also physical creatures. We need to be looked at by the person we are talking to. We need some type of physical contact with the person we are talking too. A touch on the shoulder, a punch on the arm, a handshake when meeting or leaving. Sight and touch during conversation is almost as important as the actual conversation we are having.

One way crafted conversations

One way, loud one way conversations are really annoying. I appreciate the person who is holding a phone conversation through their bluetooth receiver. You can hear them mumble, but it is so quiet, I at least really have no clue what the conversation is about.

Distracting noise makers

On the other hand there are they skypers, the face time crowd, and other electronic conversation makers. They are loud, and annoying. Occasionally, I feel I want to join their conversation which they are freely sharing with the whole room.

Adding to feelings of loneliness and separation

Some of these conversations going on in coffee shops are genuine important exchanges of information. For many, electronic conversations are attempts to thwart feeling lonely. These people should shut off their toys, and talk to the person sitting a table away who is also trying to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation. They both would find chatting face to face more rewarding and satisfying.

Present in the conversation

Think of how much better it is to actually sit across from someone, speak to them, be able to watch their body language, their facial expressions, and hear the nuance in their voice. Much better than sending out and receiving carefully crafted blurbs of text, or short, cutesy one liners with no real meaning attached to their text messages. Text with no real meaning is not only not being present, it is wasted time and space.

Reversing social behaviors

In my microcosm view of the the world as seen in a coffee shop, our social behavior is again changing. We completed the experiment of being wrapped in electronics, and most of us are now going back to our warmer more physical world of people.

We prefer to sit with the people we talk with. We want to hold a book in our hands. We want to share. We want to return to our roots, and be real people, not actors. We are moving away from the world of the cyborg, sitting alone, surrounded by electronics, never touched, never touching.

Make more friends

A behavior which I picked up on came from a bit of trivia from a behavioral study. Young people have about 20% less friends than their parents did at the same age. I used to see groups of people standing in a circle, texting people who are somewhere else. Standing alone in a crowd texting someone else who is also probably alone in a crowd. Having a few physical friends are more rewarding than one hundred electronic friends.

What about personal electronics

The question now is what should our electronics to do for us? How do we mix living in a world of physical sensations – sight, touch, and smell, what do our electronics need to do to complete the picture. I wish I knew, I would be the next billionaire.