A couple of months ago, I speculated that the panhandlers - I won't call 'em homeless, 'cause for all I know they live in nicer homes than mine - "worked" the freeway ramps in shifts. I was only half joking, 'cause depending on the time of day you exited or entered the freeway there was a different crew.
Well, this morning I'm waiting at the red light at the bottom of the ramp, and the usual guy is there. I catch movement out the corner of my eye and turn in time to see another grown man running up, out of breath, holding a big paper cup, like a fast food cup, or as I like to call 'em change-collecting cups. When he got about three feet from the corner, he looked up and pulled up short. He had seen the regular guy. They look at one another and exchange friendly smiles. The runner says to the regular "Oh, my bad. I didn't know you were 'working' this side. I'll be working over here." He gestures to the on-ramp about 20 yards away and strolls that direction.
I was right. They do work in organized shifts.
Second, there was some computer trouble at the paper this morning, apparently not affecting all computers, but definitely mine. So, since I have a story to finish writing by tomorrow morning I did the expedient thing. I grabbed my laptop and headed to the nearest place as dusty and stodgy as a newsroom: the local public library.
I found a good seat in a corner with a set of four chairs and a center table. I plugged in, whipped out my notes, and started writing. Within 30 minutes I was surrounded on three sides by presumably homeless guys. Immediately they became disruptive. They didn't aim anything directly at me. But they engaged in loud, boisterous conversation, they kicked off shoes and lounged as if they were at home, they slurped loudly from cans and bottles, they whipped out loaves of bread and deli meats and began slapping sandwiches together and passing them around. Leaving bits of food and huge bread rinds all over the place. And they were swearing a lot...with small children walking by.
I tried to ignore and keep writing. Apparently another patron, less patient than me, found a cop on the premises and asked her to do something.
Know what she did? Approached the quad, where the four of "us" sat and proceeded to scold "us" for being too noisy and asked "us," very nearly pleaded with "us" to be a little quieter. Not a word about the food. Not a word about the shoeless lounging. Not a word about the general disruptive behavior. Nothing.
I'm no elitist. Never have been. But if you can't get quiet time in a library, then it's time to put these cats out on their behinds. It's nothing against homelessness. It's not pretending homelessness isn't a problem. This is about making grown folks behave in public. And what the hell good is a cop who isn't gonna police that behavior? She could've told these guys to pipe down or else. I've seen folks get disorderly conduct tickets for giving cross looks to police officers in public. This didn't warrant a warning, at least?
The drama ended when the officer walked away all smiley as if she'd just accomplished something. What did the guy directly across from me say? "I'll bet it was that guy at that table over there who said something. Bet he wouldn't say anything if we smacked him in his mouth."
Yeah, that's gonna generate my sympathy.