Friday, December 12, 2008

Witz Pickz: Hobo Joe

"Make new friends, but keep the old
one is silver and the other's gold,"

That's from a song I remember they made us sing when I was little. While the song means well, it's a little weird to assume that some friends are gold simply because you've known them longer and other friends are the equivalent of a lesser valued metal simply because you've known them a shorter time. Also, I bet the song never expected it to apply to homeless people, but that's what we're here to talk about today.

Last night, on my way home from the train station, I stopped to get some gas. While I was finishing filling my tank, a pretty obviously homeless man walked over to my car with the squeegie (say "squeegie" out loud a few times, it'll make you happy). He was a pretty thin black guy with a few layers on-- clearly cold, but with a genuine (if not somewhat desperate) smile on his face. He began apologizing, saying, "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't mean to forget about ya, I was just finishing up some other cars!" to which I replied, "That's ok, I'm all good, thanks," because I still operate in a world where I don't get jealous when homeless people ignore me. I wasn't about to come back with, "Well, you SHOULD be sorry! How dare you solicit other vehicles, but leave me waiting in the cold, hoping with crossed fingers for your charmed voice to reach dearly for my ears." So I really was "good."

On the other hand, "That's the thing, though, I'm not..." he replied, but the fact still remained that, "I don't have any cash..." which was mostly true. I usually don't have any cash, but because of a recent grocery pickup for my roommate involving kale (which also involved a crazy Greek woman showing me what the hell kale was), I actually had a five dollar bill in my pocket.
"You don't have any change on the floor in there?" he asked, and I conceded that I probably did, mostly because I knew I had a ziplock bag full of change in there. The thing was, that's my meter money, and when I thought, "How much change would this guy want?" the answer was clearly, "All of it." I told him I'd check, but that he didn't have to squeegie my car, but he said that he wanted to and it makes him look busy so the guy inside the store doesn't make him leave. I told him that dynamic sounded very familiar to me and has he considered working in events? I was starting to like this homeless guy, and it didn't hurt that he reminded me overwhelmingly of a friend of mine. He was quick, cognizant, and friendly-- the kind of homeless guy you could take home to mom (while still thinking in the back of your mind that he's probably going to steal your stuff and leave when you're not looking).

I dug into my change and pulled out some quarters. Thinking about it, I snuck my hand into my pocket and pulled out the five. Turning back to him, I gave him the $5.50 and told him I'd found it in my change holder. He was thankful, and chose to tell me a story verifying what all white people want to hear: I'M NOT RACIST! Apparently, there's this other white homeless dude who is super unfriendly, but sometimes shows up at the same gas station and steals my guy's customers. A lot of the time, I am told, white people take a look at them both, and even though the white guy is way less friendly and "Monkey's all up in your face," white people will pull away from one pump and pull up to his. "That's bullshit!" I said, which really meant, "You're right, I'm NOT racist!" to which he replied, "Damn right!" to which I replied, "What's your name, man?" which really meant, "I like you as much as one man can like a homeless man without having spent significant time together or shared an experience that both bonded them as friends and gave insight into each other's shortcomings."

"Hobo Joe," the man replied. I gave a disbelieving chuckle and replied,
"Alright, Hobo Joe, I'm Jon," (this is a huge Witz Pickz moment. It's on par with finding out which state Springfield is in on The Simpsons or learning what "Big's" real name is on Sex and the City...not that I've seen that show before)
"Actually, my name's Jon, too!" Hobo Joe announced.
"That sounds a lot like a lie, Hobo Joe. You just told me your name was Joe!"
"Well, those are my initials. J-O. It makes it simpler. Hobo J.O."
"Clearly. Well, nice to meet you," I reached out my hand and we shook. I wasn't worried about it at the time, but when I got home, I reached for a piece of bread before remembering and washing my hands thoroughly. You know how when some people meet a famous person, they don't wash their hands for a while? Yeah, well it's the exact opposite of that for homeless people-- regardless of how friendly they were. "I'll keep an eye out for you the next time I come by," I added.

"Thanks-- sometimes people are scared of me," he confided. I fought the urge to tell him about how I had been homeless once-- for two weeks between moving out of my South Bay apartment and moving into my SF apartment. I was forced to sleep in my friend's guest room which had only a king-sized bed and its own bathroom. The wi-fi was only "pretty fast." So I could relate. Instead I said, "You seem nice enough," which really meant, "Let's be super best friends."

And off I went. A little ways away, I began wishing I had just offered to buy Hobo J.O. dinner somewhere and learned a little more about him (but within walking distance-- I wasn't gonna get knifed in my own car while driving to Mel's. Sorry J.O.). A little farther away, and I wished I'd hit up an ATM and gone back to help him out (it was cold outside). And a little farther away after that, as I got out of my car, I noticed that my car smelled vaguely of urine-- but that could have been any number of things.

ANY DONATIONS I GET ON THE SITE BETWEEN NOW AND NEW YEAR'S, I WILL BE GIVING TO HOBO J.O. -- that's not saying much now, but if you feel like donating for him, that's a good way to do it....OR we can put together a beat squad to take care of the white dude who's blowing up Hobo JO's spot.

I Gotta Get Me Some PLATINUM Friends,

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Mom! Can I bring +1 to your birthday party? Note: His name is Hobo J.O. and we're in love!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Big's real name is John. Just saying.