Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Grin and ignore it or just bear it?
One thing about working downtown in a relatively large city is that after awhile not much fazes you. My office is located in a marginal part of downtown Seattle. We occasionally have narcotics police in our stairwell with binoculars watching for drug deals on the adjacent streets. So suffice to say encountering a whacked out crack head when I'm going out for coffee or lunch is pretty much part of my average day.
Today was no different. I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for my friend who has quit smoking to finish his cigarette before we went into our favorite Chinese restaurant that serves Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Suddenly a crackhead walks by pulling a Shop Vac by the hose and screaming that the Mexicans are stopping him on the street asking him to give them a blowjob and he is an American. He seemed pretty passionate about it.
I resisted shouting out, "That sucks," even though the Shop Vac gave me the perfect excuse for the pun. But one thing you learn about working downtown is not to make eye contact with screaming crack heads and definitely don't engage them in conversations. Instead my friend and I just continued chatting until he finished his cigarette and we went into the restaurant. The orange beef was very good by the way.
It dawned on me later though that being around that crap all the time has made me numb. I walk by people passed out in doorways or relieving themselves on sidewalks and don't blink an eye. Oh occasionally I will hand a dollar to the guy sitting next to the train station entrance with his three dogs. But wonder if I'm more compassionate about the dogs than the poor man.
I suppose it is emotional survival. I walk along with my mindless grin and ignore the fact that the street is home to hundreds if not thousands of lost souls in my city. It is survival because I know there is really nothing I can do to save any of them. All I can hope is not to become one of them.