The two blocks I walk from the parking lot to the office isn’t far. Two blocks seem pretty insignificant when you think about it, especially when considering Portland blocks. They seems to be much smaller when compared to the streets I walked in Philadelphia. However, the encounters that occur within these short blocks are not inconsequential.
I have seen more naked body parts, people sleeping on the sidewalks, an occasional person in the process of vomiting, people urinating, and even had a women take a swing at me. Most of these events take place before 9 o’clock in the morning. Way too early to bob and weave and I am not sure there is ever a good time to view a stranger’s penis, I believe. Sometimes all this happens before my first cup of coffee, so I consider my surviving the blocks to the office an overwhelming accomplishment. Nonetheless, I doubt the consumption of coffee, prior to or after, would soften the impact. However, I would like to think that having a healthy level of caffeine induced agitation might give me the upper hand with some of these encounters.
A few years back, I walked by a man as he was urinating on a parking meter. This man actually lives in the building located right next to my office. He literally was urinating 100 feet from his apartment. I glanced in his general direction, trying to make sense of what I was seeing and apparently this was upsetting to him. He began yelling at me in an animated manner. Of course, I did not react, as I really didn’t want to have a conservation with this guy while he was holding his willy in his hand, and I didn’t have the time to wait until he put it away. I suspect our discussion would not have had a productive outcome anyway.
Interestingly, this man has become part of most of my mornings as I walk by his building and into my office. He is incredibly verbal. He stands, typically, leaning on a parking meter, muttering to himself about various topics. His unrest is just below the surface. After the urinating incident, it seems he decided to put me in a special category. When I pass by, he pays close attention. If I glance in his general direction, he will almost instantly go on the defensive and he calls me a “mother f!@%er*”. I didn’t immediately understand these two words were directed at me until I noticed that every time I glanced over at him he throws them my way.
At first, I was sorry that I agitated him. I would go out of my way to avoid upsetting him. I would look down and walk fast. Being the source of anyone’s irritability, especially in my line of work is not uncommon. I have to admit I do become a bit numb to being the unpopular person in the room. Maybe that’s why I sometimes would forget myself and look his way and boom! He’d toss those two words right at me. I would feel bad. To be clear, I did not feel bad for me, but for him. To be the source of anyone’s displeasure, either irrational or real, makes me uneasy even if I might be a little numb to it.
However, something changed after I accepted a new position at my job. Now I go into the office much more and I tend to have the same level of agitation brewing just under the surface. I noticed he does stop what he is doing and he does focus on me as he sees me approaching. Now when I see him, I look directly at him. I attempt to make eye contact and like friction to a match, I hear those two magnificent words hurled right at me. This interaction is quick and there is no escalation. All I know is that when I do not see him on my way to work, I don’t feel quite right. These two words are like heroin in the veins of an addict. It just feels so good.
I have not seen him for about a week and I am as concerned for his well being as I am for mine. I am hoping that this unseasonable cold weather has kept him in his apartment, keeping warm. Nonetheless, his self care is impacting my morning routine. All the coffee is not giving me the dose of optimism I get by hearing his daily affirmation. I suppose I am a bit like a masochist, but with words. I am willing to accept that good morning and good day do not do a darn thing for me anymore. If you see me out there, don’t waste your breath on me by using an empty greeting. If you are willing to accept that I need to have a good morning too, then by all means…I cannot wait to see you.