Monday, September 19, 2005


Quite a few homeless people call this city home, and often a guy or a couple of people (sometimes with a dog and sometimes not) will stand on a busy corner and beg for change. Most often there is a sign crafted from tattered cardboard that reads “Will work for food, Veteran, no job, I’m hungry, anything will be appreciated, God Bless.”

One time I gave a guy a spare can of Spam I had in my car. Don’t ask why I had a can of Spam in my car or why it was a “spare.” I’m not really sure why. But the guy didn’t turn down the gift Spam – nor did he look it in the mouth.

I could write and write for weeks about the homeless people holding their signs and being homeless and the conversations I’ve had with quite a few of them (and the conversations I’ve had with some of the mental patients that I cross paths with who live in half-way houses, which we also have quite a few of in this town).

But the other day I saw something a little different. Same type of guy, same traffic-y type of location, same tattered sign tucked under his arm, only this time the sign read, “One dollar a bag.”

I looked on the ground around the guy’s feet in an effort to ascertain what he was selling. I saw a coat. I saw his shoes (with feet inside – although I didn’t really see his feet, so it is just my best guess that they were standing there inside his shoes). I didn’t see any bags.

Darn it! I really wanted to know what that guy was selling for a dollar a bag. I wasn’t particularly interested in buying it, but I wanted to know just the same.

As I sat two lanes away waiting for my light to turn green, I noticed that his lips were moving, and I thought for a moment that quite possibly he was yelling out the slogan, “For sale! One dollar a bag!” I wanted to read his lips (not that I know how to read lips, but I always imagine I could if I really needed to know what someone was saying from across the room).

No such luck; the guy was merely talking to himself. When his eyes met mine, I didn’t let that glance linger.

Years ago I learned not to do that. On the other side of town, a woman who had the opposite of cross-eyes, styled a frightening looking frizz mullet, and needed a shave made her living by asking motorists, “Ya got a quarter; I need to make a phone call.” If you made eye contact, then you were next in line for the approach. She was a harmless bag lady, but the experience was frightening just the same.

So I was sincerely frightened for a moment that Mr. Dollar-a-bag would make his way across two lanes of traffic in order to chat awhile. I chat best over coffee.

The light turned green, and I made my way to the highway. I never did find out what that guy was selling – if he was selling anything at all. It’s quite possible that he didn’t know what he was doing there exactly, except to hold a sign that read, “One dollar a bag” and to have a nice little chat with himself.


pjd said...

Maybe he would bag on you for a dollar. You know, you give him a buck and he insults you. But then you could get that by calling Dr. Laura for free.

Selene said...

i think you ought to go find that guy and ask him...

also, i have a gajillion memories of the quarter lady. mainly of frantically rolling up the windows on your mustang. that woman was relentless. she hung out at the corner of the longest stop light in the history of the world and could easily hit up six or seven cars per red light...

Mimi said...

light = 3 minutes, say 20 lights an hour.

6 cars = yield 1/2 quarters = 75c per light

$15 an hour

Selene said...

that's wouldn't be bad if she had been good at what she was doing...bsp had to go through that light at least twice a only a few times a week...i gave her a quarter once and got in trouble because bsp knew her car would be a mark if we made a habit of it.

bluesugarpoet said...

I knew she made good money because she wore nice clothes - not your typical bag lady attire for sure.