Saturday, April 5, 2008

allen...

breda occasionally posts about her experiences at the reference desk at the library where she works...often involving the difficulties and frustrations involving dealing with the many homeless and vagrants who make the library their daytime home...this was my response to one of those recent posts...
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breda, i saw a bunch of these guys in 30 years at the pawn counter...

they are typically alcoholics rather than druggies, at least semi-homeless, and to use your term, "crazy" to varying degrees.

they don't have regular jobs because that would jeopardize the ssi monthly "disability" check even though they can do a lot of jobs...so they often do odd jobs for stores like sweeping or cleaning the parking lot.

my pawn shop was adjacent to a convenience store, and i often let allen, who lived in a tent camp in the woods nearby, sweep or pick up trash, cigarettes, etc. and weed the patch of landscaping outside my front door. he was actually pretty smart; he could work on bikes and lawnmowers, he could read pretty well and had beautiful handwriting...when he didn't have the shakes. sometimes when he was weeding, he would lay down rather than have to bend over and fall on his face from hangover vertigo...and when he had worked long enough to get a couple of 40oz beers and a pack of cigs, and maybe a honeybun, he knocked off for the day, collected his ten bucks from me, and made a beeline for the c-store; these supplies would get him through tonight in the tent, and he would do it all again tomorrow...then on the first of the month when he gets "paid" he might book a couple nights in the flop motel, take a real shower and drink real booze at the "yogi bar" till the money's gone and it's back to the camp.

allen wouldn't hurt anyone, he had empathy for others, would even try to intervene when he saw someone being mistreated, if he didn't fall before he got there. he had perpetually red watery eyes, wore clothes from the salvation army down the street, and had a perpetual aroma of booze seeping out of his pores...but he had travelled all over the country by bicycle and getting a ride when he could, he took off one year with the carnival when they hit the summer circuit...he's even on an old episide of "cops" in albuquerque, the victim of bike theft while he was in a bar of course...that was always good for free beers whenever "his" episode rerun came on the bar tv.

so that could have been allen at your library today, breda...or one of the many who are just like him; he probably didn't know he was freaking you out and thought he was being charming and his version of normal. and besides, the taxpayers provide this great, warm, interesting place to pass six or eight hours of the day...and there are people there who have to talk to him and help him and they can't tell even him to get out!

or...your guy could have been like the bipolar, off his meds, homicidal, full blown psycho like the one who knifed a guy to death in a public restroom because he came in to pee.

how dare government extort money from me to provide that impressive edifice stocked with thousands of portals to knowledge and other worlds, pay educated people who love books and knowledge and stand ready to help inquiring minds find information and enlightenment, and then turn it into a mission harboring many weak, decent, pathetic souls like allen and a few demented, mental grenades waiting for some innocuous event or perceived slight or little voice to tell him to pull the pin...and then expect my wife and/or child to come enjoy what taxpayers have provided, and then whine and feign not understanding the reason why they don't...all the while providing public notice that no one in the building has the capacity to neutralize threats to their lives or safety, that constitution thing notwithstanding? who the fuck is running this monkey house anyway?

so breda; you did the only thing you could do...your guy might have thought he was being interesting and civilized, had an interest in everything elvis, and just liked you...or he might have wanted to slit your throat to see you bleed out in the quiet, private 900's...but i'll tell you what i would insist that my wife or daughter do if they worked in the capacity and circumstances that you do...they would be packing that little model 60 and take their purse with them whenever they left the desk, and they would know what to do if the one in a million worst should happen...and the rules be damned. and with that security in mind and hand, you would never have to try to profile the poor sap at your desk or worry about a trip with him to the back 9; and then, if that guy turned out to be just an allen, he gets treated with dignity, you could offer a bit of empathy, and you just might gain insight into a world that most of us could never imagine, but is real and human and enlightening nonetheless. jtc

8 comments:

Breda said...

thank you, thank you, thank you.

HollyB said...

Excellent post, Sir!
Fine writing style coupled with grand advice couched in a touching story; you don't find that combination on the web everyday.
I'm glad Breda sent me over.

Earl said...

Very well said, aside from the conspiring to break a LAW, I like the way you told the whole tale and the possibilities if it wasn't an Allen but a Freddy Kruger, fair and balanced. Actually, I always hold the Constitution is the highest law in the land and the 2nd Amendment is trump - but then I only honor it not enforce it or its opposite. Arming for one's defense is civic responsibility.

the pawnbroker said...

yeah, it's funny, earl: pilots are armed to defend an unlikely attack (hell, i can barely qualify to get on a plane, how the hell are terrorists gonna get their hardware onboard?) and with their great gun storage and gun training are more likely to shoot the f'n plane down than any bad guy is to commandeer it or crash it.

yet in a public place that is the ideal daycamp for any and all manner of unchecked, unknown, possibly unstable and undone citizens and that spends public money to lure innocent, interested, defenseless men, women, and children to a mecca of knowledge, private individuals and employees alike are precluded by threat of arrest and public proclamation from any viable avenue of protection from attack...

i adhere to and support strongly a Constitutionalist standard of laws, though i'm not sure any provisions trump others (except the obvious capacity to enforce the others is defacto guaranteed by 2A), because the whole thing really boils down to the simplistic-sounding but all-encompassing libertarian one-liner: "a man has the right and is free to do and act as he sees fit so long as he harms or infringes the rights and freedoms of no other" ...

it's a nuthouse out there, and judging from national election possibilities, getting nuttier all the time...jtc

Burnt Toast said...

Very well written. Beautiful.

I know that man, not him, but others just like him. The sad truth is that our streets are littered with some brilliant minds and what can we do to bring thing back?

I've just found Breda and now you.

I'll visit often. Thank you again.

Edwardo said...

It's hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. You just never know...
I find it easier to write all "strange" people off as crazies and do the avoidance/ignore thing. I wonder if there are any Allens in my neighborhood? Would I be able to tell?

bparramore said...

Many street people walk by my machine shop on their way to the recyclers across the tracks. Often they will stop to ask for some work like sweeping or picking up trash. I can't and won't allow them to work. If he is in my shop for 5 minutes and then says he hurt his back, my worker's compensation will pay him $10,000 to make him go away, and my rates go up next year. I would like to pay a man ten dollars to sweep up, but I can't afford it.

the pawnbroker said...

"I would like to pay a man ten dollars to sweep up, but I can't afford it."

that's a mouthful, there, bparramore...i dropped my ffl two years before i sold my gun and pawn shop for just the reasons of liability that you suggest...the threat of the loss of all that one has worked for for years due to the vile, vicious, carnivorous nature of today's ambulance chasers and and endless supply of "innocent victims" looking for a payday.

and make no mistake about it, i am extremely careful to protect from such...but at some point you take a calculated leap of faith to keep the world goin' around, and give yourself a reason to look in you kids eyes and tell them to do the right thing...then trust in God and karma to do right by you...jtc