At each meal, the men of the shelter line up to receive a plate of food. For the few women in the shelter, and for the handicapped, an exception is made. They are not required to wait in line. Instead they are able to take first seats at the table, and their food, etc., is brought to them. This happens before anyone else is served. The irritating thing is that most of the people designated at handicapped, really aren’t so physically impared that they can’t stand in line with the rest of us shmucks. One such person this morning, prior to breakfast, was in front of the tent, riding a skateboard. When seconds were called for breakfast, he stood up, raised his hand and said, “yeah, here, at the handicap table.” To which I then snarkily replied, “yeah, riding that scooter around all morning, you’re handicapped.” He became indignant and shouted, “who said that?” Well, I really didn’t want to get into it with him, so I just remained quiet. Others who knew it was me said nothing, got him to calm down by distracting him with a new plate of food.
Then just a short time later, while people were still eating, some guy who wanted a cigarette, started walking the length of the tent yelling out. “Cigarette?” “Cigarette?”, as if he were selling beer at a ball game. One of the other participants in the tent asked him to stop as it was disruptive and disrespectful, (something I totally agree with and was surprised that the staff let it go on for so long, this guy, and another who sells cigarettes, have been doing this for weeks). Well, the two of them got into an arguement which drew the attention of the staff. I decided then to get into the ruckus and asked the staffer about it. I told him that when these guys do this, it disturbs the others. I then asked, “are they allowed to do this?” Well there’s no specific rule against it, seeing as this particular thing never came up before. So the staffer was stuck, and said “yeah.” “Really?”, I asked incredulously. So I can walk up and down through the tent yelling stupid stuff too? Great”, was my reply. At this point, “Cigarette” guy says, if you don’t like it, get yourself a motel room.”
There is still a general rule that people are supposed to be respectful of each other, and to keep the noise down, considering so many people are living in such close proximity to each other. The staffer told “cigarette” guy to quiet down. This got cigarettte guy to then exclaim, “WHAAAA, cry about it why don’t you”. This was directed at me. My blood started to boil, my body began to shake, and I started marching directly towards cigarette guy.
My thought was, “looks like I’m going to be out on the street again tonight,” as I considered how best to knock cigarette’s head loose from his shoulders. But just then the staffer yelled at cigarette guy to “quiet down or you’re getting rolled out.”
That defused the situation. I then got a couple bowls of cheerios for myself and sat down at the table to eat. Then as I usually do, I made my rack, packed up what things I’d need for the day, into a small athletic bag I have. Then I left the shelter. As I walked up to the bus stop I put on some gentle Christmas music and got myself into a better mood.