It is currently 3:30 in the morning on my last day in Indiana. At 4:30 my ride will be here to take me to the airport. There were no tearful goodbyes, and it almost feels like I had even less to pack than last time. But this is not why I decided to write a daylog. The unofficial reason is I fear I will pass out on my desk if I don't do something mentally stimulating, but the official reason is something that happened late yesterday afternoon.
It was about 6 in the evening when I decided to go pick up some last minute things for my trip. I went to the store, got my shit, all was well. As I was driving home I saw something that is increasingly common these days. Someone was standing in a median at a stoplight with a sign pleading their case. Usually it's a grizzled old guy with the whole disabled vet motif going on, usually smoking a cigarette, which typically causes the cynical among us to scoff and mutter under their breath that maybe they wouldn't be hungry if they didn't spend their streetside stipend on tobacco.
Whatever. I'm stuck on a sliding scale somewhere between a bleeding-heart liberal and a social conservative so I keep my opinions to myself. However, this does not change the fact that I typically feel uncomfortable when I see these people. Not because I think they might mug or otherwise harm me, but because here I am, my ass sitting here in my air-conditioned car, I'm flying out to Baltimore tomorrow to party for a week, and while I probably deserve none of those things the main reason I feel uncomfortable is because I have no fucking idea what I should say to these people. Hell, I feel I'm condescending to them by even being in a car period, let alone sitting in there with the A/C and stereo cranked up while they bake in the sun and endure stares from the passing cars, possibly speculating on what wise-ass remark the douchebag in the car next to them is muttering to themselves when they see their mouth moving. My biggest concern is how long I'm gonna have to sit around and be bored at the airport. Theirs is more likely along the lines of whether they'll find a safe place to sleep that night. Who knows.
That's not to say there aren't more than a handful of these folks that are strictly con-artists. To pass all of them off as such is short-sighted, but, sadly, so is assuming every situation is legit. That's why what I saw today made me reflect.
The person standing in the median was not a grizzled war vet or even a young guy with the obligatory cigarette. It was a young woman; looked to be around my age, mid to late 20's. Her cardboard sign read simply "Need help. God Bless." with a little smiley face. She wore a plain white t-shirt and jeans and looked to be coated with a light film of road dust, but as dry as it's been here it was no more than a person walking a few blocks would accumulate. Her hair was long and blonde and pulled back in a low ponytail. It looked clean and shiny. She had a beautiful face, I must say. Of course, being the piggish man trapped in a lesbian's body that I am, I thought she was hot. My suspicions as to her motives did not kick in until I saw her interacting with the other motorists stopped at this particularly long-winded traffic light. In the roughly 3 minute period I sat there, behind one other car and with two trucks to my right, the people in every other vehicle spoke to her. I didn't bother to turn down Avenged Sevenfold long enough to hear what she said to them, but the fact remained that she garnered attention almost immediately from them. All men, unsurprisingly.
Now before I am discounted as a dykey sexist cuntmuffin, let me place the qualifier that I have never, not once, seen anyone look twice at any of the men I've seen panhandling on street corners. And I've seen this plenty of times. It's pandemic in downtown Hamilton, at least during the daytime when the hookers are in bed. Yet this chick is waving and saying indeterminate things with a smile on her face every 2 seconds, it seems. She has a charming smile. She rubs her stomach idly with one hand what time she isn't interacting. She wanders down the median and passes by my car, stopping near my window. I smile at her, and she smiles back. My left hand itches to hit the button for the power window and ask her...what, exactly? Can I get you something to eat? What's wrong? What can I do? All lame. All condescending. I'm not comfortable saying this to her. She returns my smile genuinely. The light turns green.
I drove around for twenty minutes after this incident, thinking. Why did I feel the urge to talk to that woman? I have, in the past, stopped for stranded motorists, all women incidentally. I called a tow truck for one who had lost her cell phone. I jump-started an elderly lady's car at the grocery store. That's not to say I don't still get that nagging feeling of guilt whilst driving past the destitute of the male persuasion, and while I have stopped to help them before (I once gave a box of TimBits to a guy sitting on the street in Hamilton) I never feel as compelled to reach out to them as I did just then to that woman. I almost turned back three times.
I suppose I like to think of myself as immune to the sociological phenomena that I discredit. I don't believe that men are better than women or vice versa. But I do know that men are reluctant to accept help from women. Whatever. Go be a macho tough guy in a ditch somewhere. But at the same time would I be doing anything for this so-called "women's lib" if I try to be a hero to a woman in need, despite the fact that I'm a woman myself? And if that woman were truly pulling off a fantastic ruse, wouldn't I do even further harm by abetting it?
In roughly 45 minutes I leave for the airport. I hope I don't get caught up in any bullshit Labour Day travel snags.