My work on the Interstate last Summer and previous night work projects have led me to some interesting if not scientific observations in as far as human behavior goes, along with individuals, cultures, and the human species as a whole. Anyone who is suddenly tossed into night work, and there truly isn’t any other way to do it other than to get tossed in suddenly, is going to have one point of view from the perspective of a day creature and quite another as a day creature working nights. I never did fully adjust to night work, even though I did enjoy some of it. But overall I was someone who was always chasing sleep and never quite catching enough of it to feel rested. Once off night shift it took another two months to stop waking up at two in the morning and feeling like I should be out working.
The Mutts liked me working night because that meant they could come in during the heat of the day and sleep. It was hard for them to adjust to the idea I would kill them for waking me up when the sun was shining but they learned fast. I need to be in the company of dogs. I feel safer. I feel more alive. I feel at home with dogs and quite frankly as happy as I am Lucas has passed through that stage of his life, I miss having a puppy around. Puppies will teach you a few things about what you think you care about and what you really care about. You can have a good puppy or you can have a good lawn, but you cannot have both, I so postulate. You can have a happy puppy or you can have everything you own in one piece, but you will not have both, unless your house is full of high shelves.
That is, by the way, what all of this is about, if you think the first two paragraphs aren’t related. I was able to survive night work because I had an anchor in the form of a home to go home to, and Mutts to go home to, and home to go to and write, and a home to retreat to from everything that was going on, my home in the woods away from everyone else. My job allows me to have this home, and to have mutts, too, and I know that as weird as the job may be at times, the idea of there being dog food in the bowls is important to Sam, vitally important, and so therefore it’s important to me, because Sam is important. I met a lot of people out there in the night who didn’t have a job, didn’t have a home to go to, and didn’t have food in their bowl, and they didn’t have Sam. There wasn’t any speaking to some of them, because they were aliens, and I could not understand what they were saying. I could not speak to some of them because they saw me as some sort of audio controlled beer puzzle, and if they told the right story then I would pay them and they could buy beer. This is important, mind you, not the beer part, let’s forget all about that for a certain while, and concentrate of what they do to do what they do.
I am not thrilled to get up and go to work every day, or nearly every day, but I do want a house and three dogs, and oh, yeah, a computer so I can write. This requires that I produce X amount of money and my job provides me that, even if I have to give them Y amount of my life to get it. To me it’s worth the trade. Now, to the homeless, they are giving up none of the time in their lives and getting nothing, or damn little, but get this, they are still able to write fiction, even if it is in their own heads. But has there ever been a more pure theater than that of the homeless? Each script passes muster if it can convince someone to pass the mustard. Each show is to a sell crowd who will pay as they leave, not as they enter. Each meal depends on the story being good, the acting perfect, and the audience being sized up and hit with exactly the right scene. Will this person believe the stranded and need gas story? Will this man give me money if I tell him my mother died last year? Perhaps the ex-wife story will work on this one. Will being aggressive or persistent work this time or will it be counterproductive? Alas! I fear those most able, those most creative, those mostly likely to give a good performance, will be like the homed breather who also creative, but socially crippled. No matter how good the story, the author has to be well liked or…
So why are these people homeless? Clearly some are charming enough, or creative enough, or wily enough, to get by. Why are they unable to function in what we call the real world? I cannot say for I know nothing of any individual but it does seem likely that some prefer life in the open, and free, rather than spend a life chasing bills and hoping things will get better via hard work that never seems to pay off. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not painting homelessness as some sort of lifestyle choice made by noble people who are looking for a life beyond the rat race. There are desperate people out there who need help in the worst sort of way. Yet with some of the people I met out on the road, I cannot help but think some of them, at least are, if not living how they have so chosen to do so, have chosen to live the only way they can.