My car was in the fix-it shop getting the usual diagnostics and what not. I had to get to work so I hitched a ride on the Dart bus. Yep. I missed my car stereo blasting out the “Crying Game” and “Sliver” movie soundtracks and drinking my favorite hot coffee in a stainless steel cup. It wasn’t the same to ride public transportation when you had to deal with a crowded bus and there was virtually no real sense of private space.
I got off before the bus took a turn the wrong way and had to cross on foot underneath the overpass where those guys with the signs stood pan handling the locals at the red light. Often I felt invisible when I drove left towards my work place thinking nothing of those lazy bums who probably drink all day and have a home to go back to and crash until the next day.
That was then. I have developed a newfound respect for the homeless. I would never refer to them today as lazy good for nothing bums but at that time I was working and figured everyone should just get off their b hinds and get a job!
After several days of going public transport and having to pass these people by on foot, I had to deal with it each time one would ask for a light, a cigarette, some cash. Sometimes I would simply say, “Sorry. I got nothing to give you.” then sometimes they would repeat and ask if I had a nickel or a solid quarter as if they didn’t hear me say I don’t have any money.
So, one day at work I got up the nerve to respond to my supervisor when I was discussing the homeless situation at the overpass to a co-worker and then a manager interjected, “You saw some bums hanging out at the corner down the freeway?” I said, “Well, they may be bums, but the way I see it, the only real difference between me and them, from a strictly financial standpoint is, I’m wearing a tie.”
I was trying to subtly tell my boss man that I was grossly underpaid at this job.
He wasn’t all that pleased by my not so humble comparison to myself and the homeless man on the street. But I have to admit, they didn’t pay well at that place and I figure many people are on the edge of poverty that hold jobs in the white collar industry and are constantly being belittled by their bosses knowing that they have to take it because to talk back or argue can get you fired in a jack sprat minute!
They know you are stuck in a rut and can’t get up. They say your attitude needs improvement that you can write your own ticket if you work hard, long hours and get a good review. I got good reviews lots of times and I enjoyed the perks of being taken out on the town at times and the $25.00 gift certificates. I often bought office equipment with the money and it came in handy. I bought an adding machine, a word processor and a fire proof safe and some even a few floor lamps with the money I got as bonuses for being employee of the month.
But one day it all changed. My mother died, I was diagnosed with cancer and I lost it at work when I was being rushed by a customer one morning. I said something in response to his hurry up and serve me attitude. I hate to admit it but I am not good at being a servant to the people. It gets under my skin so when I unloaded all my hostility on the customer I was soon fired from that job. Well, I still regret loosing it but the circumstances of life can make you angry and hostile at the world, just like those guys on the street. They have probably lost their jobs, been thrown out on the street and have turned to the only way they know, begging and boozing and smoking and living on the edge.
I have gained insight and perspective on the pan handler situation and I know now that anyone, no matter how rich or prestigious one’s life, events can, at any time, take an unexpected and sudden disastrous turn and cause unspeakable hardship on that person and their loved ones and that can change or end their lives as they once knew it.