So I had every intention of writing a post about my night out with my friend at the country bar in Virginia, but something way more ridiculous and annoying happened a couple hours ago.
Every three weeks I must venture from Silver Spring to Friendship Heights to see Angela, my waxer. Angela is one of my favorite people in the world because with little chitchat she takes care of my mini-beard and mini-stache and expertly shapes my eyebrows. This is a necessary evil when one has defective ovaries, but I shell out the money with little hesitation. Usually afterwards I go over to Whole Foods, do my grocery shopping and hop on the bus back home.
This process is typically as uneventful as it sounds. NOT TODAY!
There I am sitting as we approach the stop before Chevy Chase Circle, headphones in, bags o’ foodstuffs on the seat next to me. I’m not really paying attention to the new passengers choosing their seats, since there are plenty, but finally I notice that there are a lot of people not sitting. I look up and a (clearly) homeless man is standing in the aisle looking at me. He points at my seat and asks if he can sit. A bit flustered I agree, pick up my groceries, shift into the seat next to the window, and set my bags on my lap. And then I mentally sigh that my trip has become slightly less pleasant, that due to no necessity at all I now have to share the bench, and I settle back into the article I was reading on my phone.
Not two blocks later:
“Do you live in Silver Spring?”
“Oh yes, I do.” Headphones back in.
“Yes.” Headphones back in. Drive two blocks.
“Sorry to bother you, but see I’m a diabetic and I have to take insulin, and that’s why I don’t work, so do you a few bucks?”
“No, sorry I don’t have any cash.” Headphones back in. Now, I was lying, I did have cash, and for a moment I really thought I should just give him a buck, but honestly, what a flimsy story. Diabetes does not, to my knowledge, prevent people from working. In fact, my old boss was diabetic and she would always rant and rave about how it didn’t make her any different that anyone else. So, if I’m going to dig out my wallet after you’ve taken my seat I’m going to need a much better story. But then all guilt fled:
“Well then, can I have your phone number?”
“What! No. No.” Headphones back in. I was starting to get annoyed at this point. Besides the fact that what he was doing amounts to panhandling, which you aren’t supposed to do on Maryland busses or any transportation run by MetroRail (bus or train), I thought that I had made it clear I wasn’t interested in interacting. Furthermore I wouldn’t give my phone number to a stranger on the bus even if he wasn’t homeless, unclean and twice my age. That is just good sense. But, apparently my disinterest wasn’t clear enough, because another couple blocks later:
“Can I have your hat?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Can I have your hat?”
I looked at his hat, and it seemed to me a nice hat, leather, fussy lining, ear flaps. Honestly, it seemed nicer than my hat, a oversized floppy purple knit hat that makes me look like I’m on my way to a slam poetry gig. So I asked:
“What is wrong with your hat?”
“Oh well you know, it’s cold outside.”
As far as arguments go, I couldn’t really fault him. It is cold outside. Knowing that I would regret it later, but just wanting him to leave me alone, I gave him my hat, put my headphones in and thought that maybe I could make it through the last 10 minutes of my ride in peace. What was I thinking?
“Sorry to bother you again, but do you know that CD exchange on Georgia?”
“No I don’t know that store.”
“Oh it’s across from the Corey House.”
“Well, I’m trying to get this CD, a Led Zepplin album, and I have 10 bucks. If I give you the 10 bucks will you buy it for me?”
“No, no I won’t.”
“Oh, come on. I’ll even throw in a 2 dollar tip for you.”
“Hey, I said no. I’ve already given you my hat, so you can leave me alone now.”
“Ok, ok, you’ve said no, I can respect that.”
“Really? You can? Good.” I was seriously pissed by this point. And really annoyed that I have given him my hat. Luckily, my stop arrived about a block later, and I managed to get off the bus without him asking me for my food, or my purse, or my glasses, or my hair, or to be the father of my children.
Here’s the thing. This kind of crap happens to me all the fucking time. I actually hate going out in public because no matter what random people with weird problems in need of something find me. I have people who can back this up: if I step out of my door someone I don’t know will find a way to talk to me. And I hate this. I’m way too much of an introvert to enjoy this in any way, shape, or form. I never know what to say, and I just end up smiling and nodding as people tell me way too many details about their personal lives.
But what worries me more is that this is the way it is supposed to be. I’m afraid that the continual infringement on my public space and anonymity is because God is trying to get me to do something. On Ash Wednesday Father gave a homily about fulfilling the needs of our neighbors, and that what other people need is companionship, understanding, and compassion. I know that that’s true, and I know that I fail at that more often than not. I’m am much quicker to point out a person’s failings than to praise their success, and my version of spending time with other people is watching a TV show in the same room together. But the fact that for me doing errands now comes with the high likelihood that a stranger will approach me with a story, or a request, or problem makes me feel like God is indicating some sort of generosity towards my fellow man a little bit out of the ordinary.
And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want God to be asking more of me. I feel like most days I have to use all my energy holding myself together and making the best of what I’ve already got. I don’t want to give of myself anymore that I already do unless I would be doing so for my husband and children. I don’t want to open myself up and become the servant to total strangers, even though that is what I am asked to do anyway in the name of Christ. Nope, not interested at this time. Family, friends, roommate, co-workers, students, other AAers, friends of friends, yes, I will give all those people my time, attention, affection, and energy. But I’m pretty sure God is calling me towards something more and I would very much like to send that call to voicemail.
And I will self-indulgently display me desire to flaunt God’s will by going tomorrow to buy a new hat because it is still fucking February and fucking cold.
(1 Year, 4 Months, and 26 Days Sober)