There was chance, a slim hope. Slim hopes are better than no hope at all.
I had checked in with the local homeless aid group, who gave me a locker to put my pack in. While the events of the day before had me at the end of my rope, I had to keep kicking.
I KNOW that I left Portland with my birth certificate. It’s gone, likely lost somewhere along the mountains of Pennsylvania.
In sheer desperation, I hit several of the local cleaners, begging for day labor to pay for a bus ticket to anywhere. Most of them were drop stores, not in need of my services. All had seen the sad tale before, and i could tell from their expressions the future looked dim.
I hit one last place about 4PM. The manager came around, and was obviously not into the idea. He did tell me he’d talk to the owner, and to come back Thursday morning, and he’d see what he could do.
I headed out of town. Sarasota is in the middle of a homelessness boom. The locals report that if you are caught sleeping anywhere in public after dark, you get locked up for a minimum of three days, no questions asked.
Hey, I desperately wanted to avoid any legal complications. When I did get the stink-eye walking down the road at 3AM, I made it very clear to the cop giving me the fish that I “was curious, how far down this road is the next city?”
That let him know I was not planning on sticking around.
Wednesday night, still seeking to stay off the radar, I took the last bus out of town, crashing in the fenced off area behind the local Wal-Mart. Folks of a certain political persuasion can say what they want about Wal-Mart, but their unofficial policy of an open parking lot for weary travelers needing to catch a few winks before plowing a car or truck into a bridge abutment has saved more lives than snarky, shitty comments from ThinkProgress.
I got three surprises. The first came at roughly 3:30AM when the sprinklers came on.
The second was missing my 530AM alarm, and being woken by the sound of the dude cutting the grass going by on the mower. I knew if I was still there on the return trip a few minutes later, I’d be deep in the shit.
The third came later in the day. It seems baseball sized colony of hitch-hiking red fire ants had decided that my small day-pack was some sort of Dreamliner or other form of transport.
CRAP. It was 8:15, I’d missed at least three buses, and the place was at least a half-hour bus ride away. So much for making a good impression.
I finally got in. The manager said he’d not had a chance to talk to the owner. He clearly was uncomfortable, but understood. I used every bit of charm I had, and he finally said he’d give me a shot. I offered two hours of work for FREE…If he still didn’t think I could do the job, come to me at the end of that two hours and I’d shake his hand, no hard feelings, no payment or expectation of payment.
He sent me over to the pants press, the same gig I had in Portland. The press had one pair half-done, another on the topper waiting, and a third on the side for touch-up. He watched me go in, glance at the controls, and without even a question get to work.
Within a half an hour, he came back over after inspecting my work. Was I REALLY serious about a bus ticket out of town? If not, he wanted to hire me full-time right now. He was gearing up for what looks to be a busy season, and it looked like I had the skills he could use.
By 2PM, he had repeated the offer and pointed me towards some local housing options for folks in my situation. He asked me to come in early in the AM to get the paperwork done, and to keep working.
I told him I’d be in around 6. That drew even more shock.
Freshly showered, freshly employed in 96 hours, more or less. I almost feel human again, because somebody decided to take a risk. In all my rantings and ravings, one thing becomes clearer.
For those that want to try, it can be done. This is the type of country we were MEANT to be. Take risks.
The Sarasota Observer had a story today about the explosion in the homeless population here. This week, I’ll be approaching them with this story about risk…and hoping they take a risk on me just like that small business did.