For whatever reason, I was inspired to write up the following stories in a post on an Awful Forums thread. I realized I haven’t blogged in awhile, and cursory inspection of the archives leads me to believe I never even blogged these stories, which is a shame, because they are my two favorite bum-interaction stories.
One day, I was walking up Michigan Avenue by myself, and this bum spotted me and starts talking to me. I’m not usually a big bum target, but this is along a strip of sidewalk between Roosevelt Road and the big Hilton on Balbo. Despite the enormous condos, I rarely see any pedestrian traffic when I walk up this section of sidewalk. So basically, I was the only one around for him to bother.
He said to me, “Buddy, I gotta get down to Aurora. Now, it cost $6.50 to get down there, and I ain’t got no money.”
On the rare occasions that hobos attempt to bum money specifically from me (as opposed to the guys on the corners rattling cups of change and muttering to anybody who will listen), I try to ignore them. It’s easier if I’m in conversation with a person, or if there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic for them to get distracted with, but the circumstances were different. Also, he was following me. I felt I had to respond, so I said, “Uh…I don’t have any money.”
“Oh, come on!” he screamed. “Look, I ain’t gonna lie to you. I just got outta jail.”
My eyes widened.
“Yeah,” he continued, “I killed a guy, I ain’t gonna lie.”
This was bad. I glanced around to see if any pedestrians were around, so if I needed to scream like a woman, somebody might actually help. Then I saw it: a cop! Standing in the intersection at 9th and Michigan. The short, fat old lady will surely save me!
Wait, no need to panic…he just got out of jail. He’s not going to kill me over $6.50, especially in sight of a cop and the heavy automobile traffic on Michigan Avenue. Right?
“Come on, man,” he repeated, “I gotta get down to Aurora. I gotta see my little girl.”
He pulled out his wallet and opened it up to a picture of a toddler girl. I started to feel bad, but I actually legitimately didn’t have $6.50.
“Sorry,” I said.
“You don’t understand!” he said. “I been in jail! My lady, she left me for my best friend! My best friend!”
“That’s horrible,” I said sincerely.
“Yeah, so now I gotta get down to Aurora and kill him,” he said. I’m actually not sure if he said “him” or “’em,” but I’d like to think the less murdering, the better.
“Here,” I said, fumbling through my pockets for whatever loose change I had. It probably didn’t amount to more than thirty-six cents.
“Thankya,” he said, slowing down and staring down at the small amount of coins in his hands.
I looked back over at the traffic cop and thought, “Should I tell her he just told me he’s planning to murder one, if not more, people?”
As soon as I thought that, the light changed, and I crossed the street and started walking very fast toward the Hilton and sweet, wonderful pedestrian traffic. I didn’t report him because, for one thing, I didn’t know where he had gone by that point, and secondly, I got the impression that this was all an elaborate cover story to intimidate me (note: it worked). However, if he was telling the truth, and he did manage to get the full fare to Aurora, it’s possible that I aided and abetted a murderer. That can’t be a good thing.
The only other good bum story I have is the story of Krazy Kelly, a krackhead who used to bum around the coffee shop I worked at last summer in Seattle. This was my only real encounter with her, since I usually worked closing shifts and (I’m told) she generally only came around in the mornings. I happened to see her one Sunday morning, when I decided to take my break outside. It was extremely warm in the shop, so I thought it’d be nice to get some cool air.
I always found the neighborhood, Pioneer Square, interesting. It’s full of beautifully restored old buildings, and after 11AM or so the streets and the square (which is across the street from our shop) are jam-packed with tourists…but it’s also home to innumerable homeless shelters, so there’s a surprisingly even hodgepodge of ignorant tourists and colorful (by which I mean “scary”) bums. Basically, it’s a shithole that tourists are dumb enough to visit because of the “old Seattle” flavor and the famous underground tour.
At any rate, Krazy Kelly was about my age (22 at the time), which both surprised and frightened me. I know Seattle’s mild weather and hippie locals make it easy for bums and junkies to survive, but man, that’s scary. (And she’s not even the youngest bum I saw…one time at a bus stop, this kid who couldn’t have been older than 12 was running around begging for change.) She approached me that Sunday morning and asked me for a dollar so she could get a cup of coffee. Gently caressing the singles in my pocket, I shrewdly lied and told her I had no money.
She sighed, disappointed, and just as she was about to move on, somebody banged on the window in the shop behind me. I looked inside the shop and saw one of the regulars beating on the window with his cane. When I turned, wondering what the hell he wanted, he pointed at Krazy Kelly and mimed lighting a and smoking a crack-pipe. As if I couldn’t tell…
Somehow, Krazy Kelly noticed his subtle demonstration. She grimaced and said, “That’s really nice, man. What a fucking asshole.” She looked back at me. “You know what?”
I suddenly found the sidewalk so fascinating that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it long enough to answer her. No matter, she pressed on. “Him and all the other evil people on the planet are going to be swallowed by man-eating sharks. I know this, because I read once that a shark ate a little boy. I’ll bet he deserved it, and I went on the ferry and made $50.”
I found it difficult to hold in my laughter. She said that last bit with such innocence, and yet there are very few innocent things I can think of that would net somebody $50 on a ferry.
Kelly started walking down the street, and I was relieved, until she turned around ten feet later and continued. “The sharks will get rid of all the evil people. You know it; I know it. One day the sharks will all end up at the bottom of the ocean and become extinct. That’s okay; Jesus loves them.”
She continued walking. I was about to sigh with relief when she turned around once again and said, “Jesus loves you, too. I know that. He told me.” It was nice to know; I was raised Catholic, so I’ve learned to believe that Jesus hates me.
She walked further, then turned around to talk to me again, but by this time she had made it far enough down the street that I could no longer hear what she was saying. She kept making progress and then turning around to talk to me some more until she finally rounded the corner.
In summary, that was the best summer of my life!