Friday, October 07, 2005

Crazy guy by Starbucks: An ode to the homeless

There's this homeless guy that stands in front of the Starbucks on New Montgomery. He's been there every morning for a few weeks. He's tall, thin, dirty and looks a bit crazy. Probably smells bad too, but I always hold my breath when I walk by him.

He's stationed at the Starbucks because, obviously, there is a lot of foot traffic -- either people walking past to get to work or people going in and out for their morning cup o' joe. Actually, this spot is prime real estate for the homeless folks, so I wonder how he managed to keep his position for so long.

As people walk by him, he's saying something to them. But since I'm always listening to my iPod as I walk down the street, I couldn't even fathom what's coming out of his mouth. Listening to music as you walk is a walkers best defense against pandering and stupid questions. Well, you may still get the stupid questions, but you have some choices: 1. act like you didn't hear them, 2. act annoyed and shake your head, 3. act like you don't understand English, 4. tell them flat out that you don't have time to answer their stupid question and keep walking (I had to do this the other day -- I was going to miss my train).

Generally people avoid him altogether because he really does act off his rocker. Not to mention the thick layer of dirt covering him. He tends to hop around from one leg to the next, and lean into people as they walk by and then hop back towards the street.

The first day this happened, I just assumed it was some weird, "two paths crossing at the same time" sort of incident. Like he was already thinking of doing this, and I just happened to walk right by him at that time. He was saying whatever he says to people while hopping and leaning in until I walked by. When I walked by, he jerked his arm towards me. I didn't really think anything of it; I was just glad he didn't touch me or attack me (I'm due for a weird walking on the street incident). I couldn't imagine anything worse than having to be taken away in an ambulance because some dirty homeless man punched me. Well, tripping isn't fun either.

Then the next day, as I was walking by him, he did it again. And again. It was on the third day that I realized he was doing it purposely. It's not so much that he's trying to hit me, it's more like he realizes I'm blocking him out. Because if I can't hear him, then I'm shutting him out completely, and unless he does try to attack me, I can pretend he's not there. If everyone listened to music while walking somewhere, then what would all the homeless panderers do? Would there be a revolt? Would they punch us so that we would pay attention to them?

I noticed that listening to music also quickly affected another homeless guy who sits on a milk crate and asks for coffee money. Every single time I walked by him, he would "honey" me and ask me for money. Once I started listening to music as I walked, he just ignored me.

And I realized another way to create "don't bother me" shield: listen to music and run around town with one of those lovely rolling backpacks. But for this to work, you must drag the rolling backpack behind you and to the side as you walk down the street. This ensures that no one can really get that close to you. Especially if you're walking next to buildings. You block all audible attacks and made it darn difficult for people to pass by you.

And, when you're on BART, you can place your rolling backpack right in front of you while sitting down. Add listening to music, and you're pretty much blocked all around. While I hate these rolling backpack people because they are very difficult to maneuver around and tend to walk a lot slower than I, I do admire their craftiness. I only have music and a mean look to defend myself. And if I forget to look mean, then that's when I get asked to go to church by random girls. Or where Union Square is.

1 comment:

Bish said...

Great post. I have one on my blog that deals with How To Handle Encounters With The Homeless, but I must admit I hadn't thought of donning the iPod BEFORE heading to the coffee shop.