Wednesday, December 03, 2008

(don't) talk to strangers

Last week, walking home from the bus after work, these guys sitting on the sidewalk leaning against the side of Oasis Pizza called me a fuck face. "Yeah, keep walking fuck-face."

I tend to be a literalist. It can be a problem. So I'm immediately hung up on the "fuck-face" -- just... wow. Fuck-face. Who says that? And then there's the "yeah, keep walking" -- it's like some kind of threat/challenge, but... why? I'm walking home. Yes, I will keep walking. Thank you.

And then I just wondered what it was about me, personally, that inspired the "fuck-face." These were dirty street rats -- not kids and not the kind of crazy homeless people I work with. These are the semi-dangerous seeming, seemingly able-bodied adults (typically male) who hang around on Hawthorne vaguely drunk all the time, yelling at each other and being unsavory. I could picture them targetting some guy in a suit or a woman in expensive clothes... I don't know, I can see them going after "the man." But me? Am I "the man?" Maybe it was my cell phone.

I am simply puzzled by it all.

Then there's the guys I walked past last night who were sitting on their stoop drinking beer from bottles. One said "spare a cigarette?" These guys appeared to be sitting on their own apartment stoop, drinking bottled beer, yet trying to bum cigarettes off passers-by.

Now, I don't smoke so maybe I don't truly understand. But as I finished my walk home, I thought of the absurdity of asking for things from strangers. I imagined myself asking people walking past my house "hey, can you spare a candy bar?" "Pardon me, got any hamburgers?" "Excuse me, ma'am. Got five bucks?"

I feel uncomfortable just thinking about asking a stranger to give me something. I can't even imagine feeling the level of entitlement that must exist before I could just walk up to some stranger and ask them to give me something I had a hankering for. I can't begin to imagine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am quite fascinated by the idea of asking for things from strangers, since my girlfriend does it all the time (and quite successfully). I've never thought of it as coming from her sense of entitlement, but rather that she enjoys connecting with people and isn't afraid to ask for what she wants. There was a more safe and accessible time when you could visit your neighbors to ask for sugar and not only did you get the sugar you needed, but it provided an opportunity to have a conversation with someone you might not otherwise get to talk with.

The examples you provided are more on the annoying side, of course, being asked for cigarettes is not as much expressing an interesting opportunity. When I was a smoker, I did strike up a number of conversations with cig bummers, but it depended on my mood and feeling of graciousness.

Agent and I went to the tree lighting ceremony at Portland's living room last weekend. There were a million people there and we didn't have time for her to get a warm drink, even though she wanted one very much - the lines were incredibly long. So we're standing all packed in, reaching up on our toes to see anything, when a few ladies asked if they could squeeze by. Agent noticed that they had a number of Starbucks cups in their hands and asked (as she does sometimes) if they'd be willing to spare one. The lady didn't hesitate to hand over a hot apple cider and everyone had a great laugh about it.

Oh and if the bus is buggin, I would highly suggest riding your bike, for many reasons. I hate waiting for things too.

11:51 AM  
Blogger not drowning waving said...

OMG! you are back on the blog!!
and so much to catch up on and so much to read about and so many internal conversations with you as i read what you are mulling over and getting up to!
work sounds like... well.... something to talk about! what job is Kiwi going for, i got so curious... and then the thought of your being promoted to that office on the 2nd floor! wow!!! yay!!!!!
and, and, and....
.... for now just wanted to write and acknowledge your writing again. good to read you.
and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY too, i was thinking of you these early days of december, you and Mera and just sending you psychic celebrations for the 12 months.

1:35 PM  
Blogger south carolina girl said...

i am sorry that happened to you. :(

2:12 PM  

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