My tent is situated near a homeless services program, and at night some of the homeless people in that program come outside near where I am, to smoke cigarettes, shoot the shit, or otherwise wind down at the end of the day. Though I can hear them talking, I find safety in the fact they are so close, even though a fence separates us. They can see me, and I them. I’ve never talked to any of them. As soon as I arrive, I set up the tent, get inside, and zip it up. I don’t ever want them to consider me a bother, or they may run me off.
From this lounge area for the shelter program people there is a decent view of the street, and a nearby intersection. This is an area where many homeless people sleep for the night, and given the nature of some homeless people, watching the area can be “entertaining” as it were. Last night was such a night. The thing is, it was just one homeless person causing a scene, but that was enough.
He was across the street from me, yelling at random homeless people. There was a lot of “fuck you, mother fucker” and the like. It seemed as though he was attempting to get someone riled up enough to fight although I don’t recall him actually trying to call someone out to fight.
My fear isn’t so much that someone like him will come at me and try to fight, I’m good at avoiding confrontation, but that I will get caught in the middle of other people’s fight. In the heat of the moment people forget where they are and they start doing damage to everything around them. I don’t want anyone messing with my tent, or breaking my laptop. Many years ago some idiot started a fight outside a hotel where some music stars were staying. I was only there to visit a friend who recently took a job at the front desk. Well, this idiot decided to throw my bicycle at the other person he was fighting. It ruined my bike.
Anyway, this lunatic ran around the corner of the intersection, picked up a large aluminum stand with the sign “Men Working” on it, and threw it at a random car that was passing him. He kept on his rampage on the other side of the block out of view, but within a minute or two cops were swarming in from everywhere. The guy tried to run but the cops in cars were quick to corner him.
There is a double relief in that the nut case was caught but also that the cops would now be around for a while, investigating the scene and doing paper work etc, before leaving. I knew then that I could relax and sleep.
Before dozing off, I heard the guys on the other side of the fence talking. They knew the lunatic. He used to be in that program they were now in. They said that when he was in the program he was cool, and had it together, was working at the ship yards and was making good money. But then as what often happens, because his life had been going well for a while, he stopped taking his meds for some mental illness. And since he had money from his job, he started doing drugs. Everything he was working on fell apart and he was kicked from the program.
Then I woke up shortly after 2am. All the clubs downtown close at 2, so from to about 2:30am, the people who have been partying at the clubs begin making their way back to their cars. Most of them are inebriated. Some of them are belligerent. Just like the lunatic earlier, these people, mostly guys but not always, will try picking fights with someone – anyone. So it was that I awoke to the sounds of a shouting match. One guy bragging about his ability to do grave bodily harm to people. Slowly they make their way down the street. This night, most of the loud people had Irish accents. Tourists. (FYI: Americans aren’t the only assholes in the world.)
It seemed as though within every wave of people going by there was at least one person trying to start a fight. Usually it was with another person from their group or from the club, but sometimes they were picking fights with the homeless. (I don’t understand why, but it seems that the streets where the homeless are allowed to camp for the night are the same streets the clubbers use to get back to their cars.) It was getting so bad last night that I knew I couldn’t sleep. It then got so bad that it seemed a chance that a fight was coming my way. So I sat up and put on my shoes, in preparation for getting out of the tent. I couldn’t see them from inside the tent but I could tell that they were passing by me, and one in that crowd gave my tent a kick.
Now, I had considered this kind of thing before, (that someone might be able to kick or injure me while sleeping) so have always situated myself within the tent in a way that limits that potential. Also, it happens that the material the tent is made of is loud and crinkly when moved, not unlike a bag of potato chips. Considering there were at least 3 of them, and only me, and considering that they kept moving down the sidewalk, I figured it to be no use to get out of the tent and confront them.
Things quieted down after that and I was able to sleep until about a quarter to 6am.