Shopping isn’t a pleasure no matter where I go but there are places that are better than others. My favorite grocery shopping store has nice friendly people running the show and it has wide aisles. I know where everything is and they have a good bakery. As far as shopping goes, yeah, it’s okay.
One thing about this place is it has a big bathroom. It easily sits three with standing room for two more. The soap dispenser is always full and they have paper towels not the blowers that are designed to make a man revert back to being nine and wiping his hands on his jeans, or worse, walking around with water dripping off his hands.
So I am about to go into the bathroom when this guy stops me and tells me the bathroom is full and he is in line. Full? There are five people in there? He claims there are, and by the way… He’s discovered a new form of panhandling. The man smells like alcohol. No beer or wine or cheap whiskey, but that smell the chronic drinkers develop over time. It’s a body odor thing that can’t be washed away. I ease away from the man and leave him to the attention of one of the employees who has evidently been watching the man shake down those who have to pee. Or worse.
The cold has a tendency to drive the homeless off the interstate and into the place where there is food and warmth. I cannot imagine having to pee outside when it is below freezing. I cannot imagine how good it feels to pee inside once the body has been outside for hours without end. I had to work outside for a few hours Friday and when I got back indoors I could feel the coldness had soaked into my body. It took a while in a warm building before I felt the cold release me. A hot shower helped very much indeed as well as hot food.
The bathroom toll troll looks like Santa Claus’ older brother who failed at retail. He’s got the same white whiskers but he’s short and stumpy looking. The man could never climb into a sleigh without troubles. I don’t see him able to make a living going into stores and hitting the customers up by blocking the bathroom, and in this I am right. I turn around and look back and there’s someone herding him out of the building. He’s pleading his case, far too loudly, and he’s got nothing to lose by getting arrested. At least he will be inside.
There’s always a stray indigent or two around any store that’s within a mile of I-75. It’s like seeing a shark near a beach; you know they are there but you tend to forget about it as long as you don’t actually see them. They are almost always smoking and if you’ve ever wondered how it is they can afford cigarettes and not food and shelter remember they are living from day to day in an environment where saving isn’t safe or practical. Where would this man put the money if he had some? What’s more, smoking is an appetite suppressant; five dollars for a pack of smokes will last a lot longer than five dollars’ worth of food and where would he store food if he had it? It’s easy to have all the answers when you’ve a home, a paycheck, and the ways and means to get the things needed for basic survival but what if you do not? If you have five dollars and it’s freezing outside and getting arrested might mean you aren’t sleeping under an overpass, do you think about taking that five dollars and investing it?
Some of the people I’ve met on the road are clearly mentally ill but there are some who just do not seem to get grasp what it takes to make a living in the world we have created. It’s not that they’re stupid or damaged but they just don’t seem to be able to hold down a job, which most of us despise doing to make a living, which most of us think we aren’t really doing. We don’t like the lives we are living but we look down on this who aren’t doing it.
Yet we’ll sit and wonder why there weren’t more slave revolts in history and we wonder why Death Camp prisoners put up with being herded about. Once a mindset is established and people start heading in a direction it is damn hard to stop them. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about picking cotton, being executed en masse or living to support a system of genetically modified food, processed meats, and high fructose corn syrup. It’s humanity being pushed in a direction by a force they cannot control or defend against.
I’m not saying these people have the solution but I am saying they aren’t the problem.