Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Shame on Me

It is a common occurrence when venturing to downtown Denver to be repeatedly asked for money by panhandlers. When I lived downtown the first person who asked me usually ended up with the little change I had in my pocket. I used to write profiles of homeless people who were vendors for the Denver Voice newspaper, so I have come to not judge anyone, since many of their circumstances were tragic and unavoidable. There are of course always a few youngsters who are clearly on the streets because they can’t be bothered to get a job, or are living “free” like America promised them.

This day was no different. I was headed to Longmont to spend the day with Jess and Petra, and boarded the free mall shuttle to take me to Union Station, where I would catch the L bus. The shuttle has a row of seats that run along the back, allowing riders to look toward the front of the shuttle. I took a seat near the back, but along the side, and made myself comfortable. Shortly into the ride, an older man who was sitting in the back seat, looked directly at me and I prepared myself for my defensive response.

“Do you have anything to eat?” He asked quietly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t,” I responded automatically. He gave the tiniest nod and looked away.

The problem was I DID have something to eat. I had a whole lunch bag full of homemade pizza with chicken and artichoke toppings. I had an entire baggy full of fresh grapes, and I had a couple of cookies and a yogurt. I had plenty of food, and it certainly wasn’t the only food I would have access to that day.

I felt horrible. I watched as he lowered his head to his chest and appeared to fall asleep. He hadn’t asked me for cash. He had only asked me for the most basic of human needs–food. I tried to remember the last time I was hungry. It was a few weeks ago, and I was certain I would faint doing the most mundane tasks around the house if I went another moment without food. I wondered if sleeping abated the pains of an empty stomach, as I watched him and fought back tears. His clothes were mostly clean, as well as his gray hair and face. He didn’t appear to be homeless, perhaps he was just hungry.

Even after these thoughts, I am ashamed to admit that I still debated at all whether or not to give him some food. I thought about what I was willing to part with. The pizza was not that great, but was homemade and looked impressive. The grapes are natural fruit, so that seemed like the best idea. The yogurt and cookies I intended to share with Petra so I ruled them out.

I continued to watch him until we were two stops away from Union Station. Sad and ashamed, I moved into the seat next to him, and pulled the pizza out of my lunch bag. I touched his hand lightly and he lifted his head, opened his eyes and looked at me. They were the watery, cloudy eyes of an old man, like those of my grandfather. I fought back tears and tried not to think about what circumstances had brought this man to the point of asking for food from strangers.

“I have some homemade pizza,” I handed him the bag. “I’m not the best cook, but it’s fresh.”

He took the bag eagerly, and carefully opened the ziploc.

“Thank you, it looks really good.” He took a bite and looked at me with those watery eyes, and praised me as if I had just served him some filet mignon. I was a fine cook, he said, in between bites, which he truly savored–I like to think it was really delicious, and not just his extreme hunger that fueled his compliments.

We chatted as he ate a piece of pizza, then it was time to get off the shuttle. He thanked me again and disappeared into the crowd.



April 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his toes…” Those were the lyrics of a song by Little Jimmy Dickens that my parents used to listen to when I was growing up. I’ve always remembered the words to this song, and as an adult I realized this song was all about Karma. And if ever there was a time to call upon Karma, this morning was it.

I hiked to the bus stop on Broadway to catch the 0 bus to work, and as I approached the bus shelter I saw a man I have come to refer to as our local Camper. He’s older, and sleeps along the canal road in a small shelter he made for himself out of branches and logs. He’s always been respectful when our paths cross. He’s never asked for money, and is always up early to break his camp and get on the road. Usually I see him tramping up Broadway with his backpack, I suspect heading nowhere in particular.

Occasionally he was at the bus shelter before I arrived, and was always courteous as I approached. If he was smoking a cigarette, he would step around the back of the shelter so I wouldn’t have to smell it. If not, he would stand up and move out of the shelter, insisting I take the seat to wait for the bus. He never spoke, but I got an occasional grunt and nod in response to my greeting.

Today he was standing next to the shelter, and two young men were sitting on the bench inside the shelter. I greeted the camper as I approached, and he nodded silently. He seemed out of sorts, at least as out of sorts as a stranger can be. I noticed immediately that the two young men also appeared to be homeless—their several layers of clothes were filthy, as were their hands and the white plastic bags that held their belongings. They sat on the bench inside the shelter, smoking cigarettes and talking. Their conversation was laced with expletives, and they acted as if they hadn’t noticed my arrival. I wondered how, and why the Camper came to be hanging out with these two. Clearly they were not of the same caliber of people he was.

The Camper seemed frustrated and a little embarrassed at the behavior of his two friends, and avoided making any eye contact with me. I stood to the other side of the shelter, trying to avoid the cigarette smoke, vulgar conversation and general stink of these two youngsters. When the bus arrived, however, the Camper stood up and took the front of the line, they motioned for me to get on first. I thanked him, paid my fare and took a seat near the front.

The stinky young men flashed their transfers and headed to the back of the bus, where they continued their awful interaction. I was glad they hurried to the back and hopefully, after putting on my headphones, I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore. After fishing my headphones out of my bag, I looked up to see the driver and the Camper in a discussion. The Camper’s eyes narrowed, and he hollered at the two men in the back of the bus.

Hey man, I need that transfer you promised.” That explained a lot. He was hanging with them because they promised him a free bus ride, probably downtown to a food bank or shelter where he could get something to eat. I suspect he traded cigarettes for the promise. Downtown was a good five or six mile walk. I couldn’t fault him for that exchange.

Dude, sorry. We only have one for two of us.” The two laughed at having fooled the old man. The Camper’s eyes glowed with rage, and I could tell he would love to get them alone in a dark alley. And I kind of hoped he would someday. He couldn’t mask the shame he must have felt, as everyone on the bus looked at him, knowing he would be put off the bus because of lack of fare. The pride on his face at that moment reminded me of my father. A man who was proud of who he was, regardless of circumstance.

I pulled out my book of transit passes and walked up to the driver.

I’ll pay this fare.” I said. The Camper looked me directly in the eyes and gave me a slight nod. I don’t know which was harder for him to accept—being duped by a couple of stinky bums, or having to accept my help. I smiled at him and hoped he would go directly to the back of the bus and confront the little snots, as their laughing had died down when they realized he would be riding the bus with them after all.

But he didn’t. He took the first seat at the front of the bus, placed his backpack at his feet, and silently faced the front.

I, however, invoked the power of Karma. “May the bird of paradise fly up your snotty, stinky, horrible little noses.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreadful Day in the City

The day began wonderfully. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Robert, and had several errands to run downtown, but nothing super-important. I was looking forward to spending the day riding buses, trains, and having plenty of time to finish a great book I was reading. One of the benefits of being a regular public transit rider in the suburbs, is that Rocco picks me up at Robert’s house in the short bus. Rocco is the morning driver, and Ricki is the afternoon driver. They pick me up and deliver me to the light rail station, or will take me to the grocery store if I need. It’s a great service, but I usually only take advantage of it in the morning, or when I’m carrying a lot of goods home. The rest of the time I enjoy the two mile walk from the station.
Today I had to be downtown by 10:30 to interview a homeless man for a monthly profile for the VOICE. When Rocco arrived to pick me up the air was cool and smelled of wet, fresh grass. The sun was rising, and it was shaping up to be a hot, but beautiful day. I had a moment of spontaneous euphoria as Rocco drove to the station, windows open and the cool breeze washing over me. It was going to be a good day.
Or so I thought. My interview turned out to be too time consuming and tedious. If I spend more than one hour on an interview, I end up making an hourly wage that is miniscule. The profile only entails 500 words, so a quick synopsis of their life is sufficient, mostly I need a couple of quote about selling the paper, and the point is to let readers know where to find them. It was quickly apparent that the theme of this interview was, as a man with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder, his life was disrupted and he remained homeless because he cycled through success and destruction every 4 to 6 months. I was sympathetic to his story, but he insisted on reciting EVERY detail of EVERY failure, EVERY six months of his life. I gently tried to prod him along, but he was insistent upon the details. It’s always hard for me because I do my best to respect every subject and make them feel that everything they say is of the utmost importance, but I really couldn’t afford to spend the three hours the interview was turning into.
I left a little angry with myself. Both for rushing the interview, and for letting it go on too long. I scolded myself as I walked the 1.3 miles home to my apartment. My next point of business was to renew my discount prescription card. I had let it lapse, and I only use it for certain items, my diabetic drugs I get at another pharmacy, which was my third stop for the day. So I entered the apothecary with my 15 pages of renewal paperwork, only to be told that it would not be honored. When I first signed up for the card, they allowed me to use the receipts and paperwork until my official card came in the mail. I assumed that would be the case again. Not so. For some reason, the law is that if you let it lapse there is no leeway for renewals. Why? I asked, that’s rather ridiculous. The young girls were sympathetic, but raised their arms in the air and made the statement, “We know it’s ridiculous. And there’s no reason for it. But it’s the law.” Frustrated I left. Mostly because there was nobody to rage against. Nobody to call and say “What the hell were you thinking?” It seems like just another ridiculous bit of control that is exercised against us in the name of “Medical Care.”
Between the never-ending interview and time spent arguing unsuccessfully, my bus transfer had expired, which meant I would have to spent another $2.25 to get to the pharmacy for my insulin. I get a great sense of accomplishment at planning my day precisely so I can get around with only one pass. It was already noon and I was cranky as I boarded the 52 bus bound for Denver Health. The driver was a nice old lady who met me with a big smile, and in a very pleasant voice announced every stop. I was feeling more relaxed as I got off the bus. I would pick up my test strips and insulin, have lunch, and still be able to make it home on the same transfer, since they were good for three hours. Then I noticed the nice driver had not changed the time for the hour, and my transfer was only good for two hours. Dammit!
I rallied again when I saw the line to drop off prescriptions was not that long. And I admit I rallied a little more as I listened to the man in front of me argue with the clerk about his prescription. They had the wrong units, or read the prescription wrong, whatever the problem, I heard that they were unable to give him enough insulin to get him through the month. He was a huge man, and when I overheard how much he was taking I thought it was impossible that one human could take that much and not die. I was very happy, and a little smug, knowing that my prescription included much less insulin, and, having promised my doctor I would keep a log of all food and insulin taken, I was feeling pretty high and mighty that my visit here would be much more pleasant.
Wrong again. I approached the window and told the apathetic clerk I would like two vials of humalog. Without checking the computer, she looked directly at me and said, “You can only get one.”
“They let me get two at a time. I do it every couple of months.” I replied. She didn’t bat an eye, and still didn’t even pull up my record.
“No. You can’t get two.” I checked my temper. It wasn’t that imperative, but since there was a minimal charge for them, it was more convenient to cover two months at a time. Whatever.
“Okay, then I just need test strips then too.” She finally pulled my record up on the computer.
“Sorry. It hasn’t been 30 days. You can’t get those until tomorrow.”
She should have thrown in some blood pressure medication for free, because I could feel my face going red and a trembling began deep inside. Deep breath, deep breath.
“I’m sorry. My doctor has instructed me to check my blood sugar five times a day. I can’t do that without test strips. Can you please look at my record?”
Her apathy was replaced with snottiness. “You can use the house phone to call him, then he can re-write the order and we can re-process the order. But no, I can’t do anything from here. You can come back tomorrow, then it will be 30 days.”
I really am proud of myself for letting it go. Mostly.
“Will tomorrow at 11 be okay to pick up your humalog?” Her apathy was back.
“No, I will wait for that please.” I said, I was not leaving empty-handed.
“Fine, it will be about 45 minutes.” She showed the first sign of emotion, in the form of delight as she informed me I would be waiting a long time. Ha! I had news for her.
“Wonderful!” I said, flashing her a big smile. “I have a good book I’ve been dying to finish, and the cafeteria has great salads.” That showed her. I marched off and went to pay too much money for a really bad salad, but dammit, I did read my book.
Insulin in hand, I got back on the 52 bus to continue my journey back out to Robert’s, where I looked forward to lounging on the patio and wrapping up some blog posts. I was in immediate trouble with the driver, as I tried to board the bus without realizing a wheel chair was trying to exit. He yelled at me to “hold up,” then I waited as he lowered the ramp and the chair rolled off. He made it a point to hold me at bay for about 30 second longer than necessary after he raised the ramp, I think just to make sure I knew he was the boss.
I took a seat in the back and looked at my transfer. It expired at 3 o’clock. It was now 2:45. We would get to the train station about 2:58, and I my stop was about 10 minutes past that. Angry at the original driver all over again, I wondered what the technicalities of the pass were. If I boarded the train while the pass was still good, would it count? Given my experience with RTD employees, it would not. But we were talking about a matter of minutes. My internal battle was interrupted by a woman in the middle of the bus yelling “This is my stop!”
“NO bell was rung!” Yelled the driver.
“I rang the bell!” She argued back.
“I stopped for the stop you rang the bell for! That was on the other side of the street! No bell was rung for THIS stop!” The driver yelled, as he slammed on the brakes, pitching all of us forward as the woman worked her way off the bus. That seemed like the final sign that this day was not the day to tempt fate. I bought a fresh ticket at the station, but was still grumbling about it as I bumped along. Then, two stops before my exit, a transit cop appeared from behind me.
“Tickets please.” I was giddy with relief as I flashed him my pass, he smiled, wished me a good day, and moved on to the next person. I looked at the time. It was 3:03.
I replayed my ridiculously tedious day in my head as I began the two mile walk home. But soon the bunny rabbits were darting across my path, the geese meandered toward me to shake me down for food, and I noticed the trees had finally started to turn green. Sure the day had cost me three transit passes, but I did come away with an interview, a bottle of insulin, and narrowly escaped a transit fine of $75. And in retrospect, I couldn’t really remember the last time I had such a terrible day. Most of my days have been good, so I shed my worries along the walking path, happy to know that I probably had another six months or so before I would have a bad day again.

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

These boots were made for walkin’

Okay, they’re not actually boots, they’re walking shoes, but that doesn’t lend itself to a catchy title. The point is, the weather is FINALLY nice here in Denver, and I’ve been dying to take my new running shoes out for a stroll. Karma gave them to me, after I realized I might be falling prey to the middle-aged syndrome of fallen arches. There’s a fancier name for it, and several women I know have it, but I have thus far been spared the pain in my feet. Until recently. I have always had one small spot on the heel of my left foot that gets sore after a lot of walking, but not enough that I’ve had to pay attention to the kind of shoes I wear. Not so much anymore. My new shoes are pink and purple, and have very good arch support.

I have been hoarding sample sized toiletries from everyone I know to take down to the homeless shelter. A couple of estate sale guys who donate to the center regularly caught wind of my connection with the homeless, and brought me three large bags of such toiletries, including razors, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste. St. Francis Shelter downtown runs a day center, including a shower room, and is always in desperate need of such items. I’ve been storing them in my nifty little faux-burberry rolling bag, and today I actually drug it downstairs, out the door, and the 1.5 miles to the shelter.
I stopped at the VOICE office to drop off a bag of goodies I had gathered for them as well, including neck lanyards and some toiletries. Dragging my fancy little bag through the heart of the homeless was a bit comical, especially as I passed one couple who were balancing two large plastic bags full of belongings on their shoulders. I wanted to shout at them not to judge me, I was taking my pretty little bag full of goodies to St. Francis. But I did not, they didn’t seem to really be judging me anyway.
After depositing my goods at the shelter, I headed to the mall and caught the shuttle bus to Market Street Station, near the bottom of the mall. I walked back up to the top, stopping at all the food kiosks scattered along the mall. I’m writing a blog post for about street vendors, and was in search of the booth that served breakfast sandwiches on donuts. As in, sausage and eggs on a glazed donut. Disappointed I couldn’t find it, (apparently it’s too early in the season) I settled for a breakfast burrito from the gentleman dragging a red cooler down 15th street. It was spicy, delicious, and only $1.50, and it fueled the rest of my journey up the mall.
St. Paul’s cathedral is directly in the path I take to get home, and around 10 o’clock each morning people begin lining up at the front doors for the free lunch that is offered daily. Men line the sidewalk, some sitting on the stone wall, others lounging on the grass between the sidewalk and the street, and still others lean against their modified bicycles. Almost anything can be used to modify the bicycles, including wagons, wheels of any sort, and boards. Boards are nailed together and wheels attached to them, then boxes and bungie cords strapped to the boards to make room for storage of their items. Today there was a bike that had so much attached to it, the stuff was actually twice as long as the bike, and finding the original frame of the bike was difficult. The men all seemed in a good mood like the good weather, and as I walked through the gauntlet of homeless gentlemen, I got plenty of “how you doin’?”, “Hello pretty lady,” and “good morning baby girl’s.” They may be homeless, but they know how to compliment a lady.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



Throughout my life I have had men buy me drinks, dinner and gifts. But today a curious thing happened with a gentleman on the 52 bus. The 52 serves Denver Health, which is where I fill my prescriptions. My monthly visits are always a lesson in humility, as I stand in the long line of people waiting for our drugs. There is always someone missing a leg, usually their stump is wrapped in the dirty rags of the homeless. Someone is usually talking about the cancer they got, and there is the old man or woman, skeletal and sickly, slumped in the chair while a family member waits in line for them.

Today was not so busy, the weather was bad and people don’t like to venture out if they don’t have to. My usual hour long wait took only 30 minutes, which meant my bus transfer was still good. I hurried to the bus stop and joined the line of waiting riders. An elderly gentleman stood in front of me, and he struck up a conversation immediately. His clothes were dirty, and his gray beard was stained brown around his lips from smoking cigarettes. We chatted about the weather and he asked where I was going. I told him downtown, and I was happy because my transfer was still good. As the bus approached he took out his wallet and made a motion with his hand.

 ” Put that away. Your transfer’s no good here. I got this.” I tried to explain that my transfer was valid, and I couldn’t use it any other time, but he proudly displayed his pass to the bus driver and declared “she’s with me.” I followed him onto the bus and sat in the seat opposite him.

 “I got a companion pass.” He said. “I can get anyone I want on any bus or train. You wanna go  to breakfast? I just got my social security check.”

Flattered but a little creeped out, I graciously declined and got off at the next stop. He smiled big and squeezed my hand as I got up to leave, and I suspect he spent the rest of the day bragging to his friends about the “pretty little” thing he treated to a bus ride.


May 3, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



A few weeks ago I spent a leisurely Sunday sipping coffee and wandering around town. I slept late, then got up and brewed a pot of coffee in my new coffee maker. It’s really too big for one person, but Karma gave it to me and I love the smell of coffee warming throughout the day. It uses about the same amount of grounds to brew two cups or six cups, so I opted to err on the side of excess.

I was headed to the library to return some books and check out a couple of DVD’s, then planned to return home and spend the afternoon doing mindless internet research and watching videos. The library didn’t open until one, so I took a long hot bath, enjoyed a nice breakfast of fried potatoes, eggs and cheese. My cozy little home seemed even cozier with the smell of coffee and potatoes. It was bitter cold outside, and I was happy for the chance to wear my wonderful boots, awesome hat and warm parka. My heart was full of joy as I poured myself a cup of coffee for the walk downtown.

As I approached the library I saw an old man standing on the sidewalk, in the seemingly endless line of homeless people asking for money. He wobbled on his feet and had a wild look in his eyes, watching closely everyone who walked past him, but not speaking to them. His beard was long and white, with brown stains on the strands around his mouth, from coffee, cigarettes, and lack of washing. His fingernails were too long and filled with dirt, and his teeth had obviously not seen a toothbrush for a long time.

He watched me closely as I passed, but didn’t solicit me in any way. I could feel him watching me as I entered the library and I felt a little odd, although I didn’t really know why. I returned my items and thanked the universe for my good fortune when I found a full season of 30 Rock that I hadn’t seen. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes, and again found myself walking before the old man. As I approached him he wobbled on his feet toward me, and I braced myself to tell him I didn’t have any change. His question surprised me.

“How many coins for your hot beverage?” He asked. I could barely understand him, and for some reason, I quickly turned him down.

“Sorry, God Bless.” And I walked on. He persisted, wobbling a couple of more steps behind me.

“I’ll give you some coins for you hot drink. How much?” He insisted.

I’m ashamed to say I simply walked away. I felt immediately guilty, but kept on walking. By the time I was consumed with guilt I was already several blocks away, and rationalized it wouldn’t make any sense to go back. Why had I reacted that way? I certainly had plenty of coffee waiting for me at home. I was dressed warmly, and didn’t really need the hot liquid to warm my belly. Ashamed, I went home and tried to forget about it.

I couldn’t. That old man and my selfishness has haunted me for weeks.

Today I awoke in a hurry to get out the door and go to work. I reached for the coffee to start it brewing, and realized I was out. I dressed quickly and headed for McDonald’s for a cup of java for my commute. On the way I realized I didn’t have any change, and would have to use my debit card to get my fix. Well, if I was going to run a card I didn’t want to do it for just one dollar, so I thought I would be forced to get a biscuit, and maybe a hashbrown, at least 500 calories worth of needless food.

Then I had a better thought. I bought three large coffees, with lots of cream, sugar and Splenda on the side. I mixed up my coffee and put the rest of the condiments in my pocket, then headed down Colfax with two extra steaming cups of coffee. It was a cold morning, and the streets were deserted. I was nearly to the Civic Center station before I ran across two men. One was a Native American, wearing only jeans and a T-shirt, with a light blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He was talking to another man who was only slightly better dressed. Nervously I approached them.

“Excuse me. Would you gentlemen be interested in a cup of coffee?” I asked. The words were barely out of my mouth when the taller man reached for the cups. The Native American was a little more shy, but smiled and thanked me as he took the other cup.

“Thank you.” He said simply.

“You’re welcome. God bless you.” I smiled and went on. Feeling happy with myself, but still unable to shake the haunting memory of the old man.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment



               I have spent the last six weeks tromping about town in my winter boots, regardless of the fact that temperatures have been near 50 and no snow. I despise being cold, especially my feet, so have not taken any chances. By the time I make the one mile trek to the light rail station each morning, I’m drenched in sweat and nearing heat-stroke. But I’m prepared.

               Until the day I wasn’t.

I had ventured to the Good Doctor’s place directly from a business conference, clad in dress boots instead of winter boots, a fancy scarf instead of a warm scarf. The next morning was chilly but no sign of snow, and with only dress boots or tennis shoes at my disposal, I donned the tennis shoes and headed for the office. By early afternoon the snow was falling and the temperatures were dropping. At quitting time I reluctantly left the warmth of the office and headed to the bus stop, where, due to bad weather and driving conditions, I stood for nearly 45 minutes before the next bus made its way up the hill.

My feet were frozen, my cheeks were bright red and chapping, and my fingers trembled as I fiddled with my transit pass. Standing in the cold, ill-prepared, for so long gave me plenty of time to scold myself for not being prepared, and for my mind to wander to that dark place that we don’t really like to go.

What if I were homeless? What if I had nowhere to go to escape the cold? What if I didn’t have bus fare to get off the cold street and onto a warm bus? As the cold set in and my eyeballs neared freezing into icey orbs, I seriously pondered the question. Would I dare ask the people going in and out of the closest store if they could spare some money? Would anyone give me any? Maybe just enough for a hot cup of coffee.

After much thought I decided my first point of action if I were homeless would be to get the heck out of the colder areas. I would hitchhike to California, or Florida. Someplace warm. My second choice, if I was forced to stay in Denver, would be to find a nice place to dig a cave. The banks of the Platte River are home to many homeless people, but also a place for extreme abuse and killing. Being homeless, or sleeping outdoors anywhere near or in Denver is illegal, so I would need to keep a few steps ahead of the law.

So I believe I would find a nice suburb, like one near Tim and Mona’s or the office, where there is a park with a long walking path along the canal. Then I would dig a discreet cave in the bank, under the cover of shrubs or trees, and make a cozy fire. Of course in my mind, a shovel and plenty of energy to dig are miraculously provided. I believe I could make a nice little hole for myself, at least enough to survive. Maybe I’d catch squirrels for food, or hit the trash bins hoping for leftovers from people who sit in their cars at the park for their lunch hour, eating and reading a book or napping in their car.

My toes were officially  frozen and unable to move independently when I was roused from my pondering by the bus. I paid my fare and enjoyed the wall of warmth that greeted me on the bus. Another 20 minutes of waiting for the light rail left me frozen again, and the six block walk up the mall  was enough to convince me to splurge $5 for a cab ride the rest of the way home. The streets were full of groups of homeless people gathered together, sharing cigarettes and possibly using their bodies to stay warm. I wondered where they would stay tonight. How many of them would freeze. And if it was possible to achieve a state of slumber when temperatures were approaching zero.

Disturbed, I climbed the stairs to my 300 square feet of home, where I settled into my chair in front of the radiator, book in hand, trying to cleanse my mind of the injustice of humanity, and take my mind off the thought of having to sleep outside.

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment




            Having read about Rosie O’Donnell having a heart attack, and how she took an aspirin directly afterward, apparently saving her life, I started carrying a couple of aspirins in my backpack a couple of weeks ago. My reasoning is that I have absolutely no idea what to do in case of a medical emergency, other than apply pressure and call 911, but if I happened upon someone having a heart attack I could offer an aspirin in the form of treatment. Mostly to assuage any guilt I may have about not being able to help them.

            I finally saw an opportunity that my aspirin may come in handy as I headed up Washington toward the train station this morning. A man stood on the sidewalk across the street, while a thin woman sat on the sidewalk at his feet. He was obviously concerned, as she swayed back and forth then fell over. I stopped to watch, and he appeared to be calling 911. The woman sat up and the man bent over her, so I trotted across the street to ask if they needed assistance, prepared to fumble in my backpack for the life-saving aspirin.

            The man immediately asked if I had any water, I replied I did not, but asked if I should call an ambulance. He directed me to an office building on the corner, saying water was all she needed. His breath smelled of alcohol and upon closer inspection the woman’s eyes were dilated and she seemed incoherent. She definitely was not afflicted with anything my aspirin could help. I headed over to get them some water, and as I looked back the woman was up and they were walking down the street as if nothing were wrong.

            I went on my way, disappointed I didn’t get to save a life, but relieved that I didn’t have to save a life.

            I was headed down to the newspaper office to do a profile interview. The office is in a sketchy part of town, with the free clinic and several homeless shelters bordering the block. As I wandered down Stout Street I though again that my aspirin may be needed. I came across a man who was slumped over against a building, his backpack and belongings scattered around him on the sidewalk. My first response was to offer assistance, but as I got closer it occurred to me that perhaps he had just fallen asleep.

            If I were homeless, and finally fell into a deep sleep, I think I’d be pretty upset if somebody woke me up. I walked past him a few feet, but stopped and looked back. What is he were sick? What if he were passed out? What if he were dead? I tried to watch his chest to see if he was breathing, but panicked when I thought of him waking up to find me staring at him. I really didn’t know what to do. I hated to leave him in case he needed help, but hated to wake him and draw him back into the lousy world of being homeless on the street.

            I decided to walk on, the office was only a block away. I stood on the sidewalk in front, talking to one of the vendors as we waited for the doors to be unlocked. I kept watching the sleeping/dead/sick man, and finally expressed my concerns to the vendor I was talking to. He was not the least concerned, and warned me to leave him where he was.

            “He’s high as a kite. He was arguing with himself just a little while ago. You’re best just to leave him where he lies.”

            So, no chance to offer my aspirin, but I’m definitely going to take the chance to ask some of the homeless vendors at the paper what proper protocol is to determine if someone is just sleeping or needs help.

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment