A few days ago, I pulled up to a gas station to fill up the MCP mobile. I've taught myself to use cash for most transactions these days. It's a little way to get out from the control of capitalism and corporate banks. The problem with using cash transactions in this ever evolving cyborg world is that you need to have an interaction with a human to do so. I question the direction we are heading as a society and more specifically in America. We are replacing tellers and cashiers with self checkout computers. This diminishes the demand for employees and we wonder why unemployment is on the rise in America.
I approached the quiosque. As luck would have it, the "CLOSED: BE BACK IN 15 MINUTES" sign was up. I'm a patient guy, so I decided to wait. I peered inside to discover a clerk counting cigarette packs. This can't take too long. I watched as people came and went, swiping plastic through greedy machines. I questioned what information is on those cards and how much of that information is being channeled to a database. Everything we buy, everywhere we go as well as our personal data is transmitted through that little piece of plastic.
Shortly, I noticed a homeless man approaching the quiosque. He offered me a drag off his smoke as he drew near. I refused. I gave up the cancer sticks almost two years now and don't need to relapse. As he approached the glass doors, I told him it's closed. He was wearing a trucker cap and his bearded jaw flapped loosely from it's hinges. He peered inside and made some half insane crack about the two attendants involving homosexual activity. I laughed and made some comment back which was probably not nearly as humorous. He decided to wait with me. As people approached and left as quickly as they read the sign, I realized that I am a rare breed and obviously have a schedule so incredibly dull that it pairs nicely with that of the homeless. Maybe it's not that my life isn't hectic, but that I can stop and smell the roses now and then. Even if it's the smell of stale cigarettes and hooch.
The homeless man turned to me and asked how my holidays were going. It was at this point that I noticed a "Y" shaped incision running vertically down his throat and up to his ear, held together with staples. I told him it was going alright and I couldn't complaint. "How about you?"
He sucked his bottom jaw halfway down his throat which sort of resembled a grin and responded with mediocre favor. After a pause he said, "Except for this" and pointed out the gnarly wound in case I missed it.
I responded with "Yeah. What happened there?"
He told me that he was asleep Monday night when a man off his meds came up and knifed him. Luckily a patrol car was there. The assailant was arrested for attempted murder and the victim received medical treatment.
"But I don't hate him"
What? This was hard to buy. Some guy took I shank to his throat and he had no animosity towards him?
"He didn't hate me. He didn't want to kill me. He just ran out of his meds. "
I was amazed at his unconditional humanity and love for another being. I see people hate other people all the time for simple things like getting cut off on the freeway. He then explained to me that the only reason he survived was because the man did it wrong. The incision should have ran horizontally.
I'm pretty blunt and say what's on my mind. Sometimes that gets me into trouble. I asked him if he wished he had died. He didn't really have a straight answer. But to sum up his Ghandi diatribe, he doesn't want to die but he doesn't want to live this life. Rather, he's ready to move onto the next life. He wont kill himself. "I'm not a coward" he explained. He just wishes someone would come and put a bullet in his head and do him off right.
I told him maybe it wasn't his time to go yet. This baffled the bum. He's been told this many times, but he doesn't know what his purpose is. He's had the cars, the house, the career. He doesn't want any of that. The system doesn't work for us. You can either fight to survive by being a part of it. Or you can fight to survive as an individual. He clarified that he would rather survive on the streets then look like a fool. I liked this guy.
It became apparent after a half hour chat, that the gas station wasn't going to open any time soon. I asked him what his name was. He said Critter and I shook his hand. He headed on his journey of freedom. Halfway across the parking lot, he looked back at me and waved his hand flashing the Hawaiian "Shaka" symbol. In Hawaii it is the call of the Aloha Spirit, a gesture of friendship and understanding between various ethnic cultures. In surfer language, it means "Everything's cool".
I really liked Critter. I'm not sure why the gas station was closed and the two of us got a chance to meet. But I can't help thinking of him this holiday as a constant reminder of what's important in life.