Apparently I am so stuck in my ways – or so clueless – that when my internet went down the other day, I simply pouted and assumed I was screwed for the afternoon. That is until my genius friend suggested I go somewhere with free WiFi. Oh yeah!
Fifteen minutes later, I was at my local library, happily browsing the interwebs once more. Ten minutes after that, I noticed a nice looking gentleman walking over. No open tables were left. However, he decided to share with the young lady one table over from me. I tried not to take his snub personally; after all, her table was closer to the outlet needed for his laptop. Ten more minutes later, another gentleman entered the library. Not quite so nice looking. In fact, I was certain he was homeless. Of course, he headed straight for my table.
I have this habit of not making eye contact with strangers unless absolutely necessary, so though I could see him coming my way, I kept my eyes on my monitor. I could sense him hesitating to sit down, as my paperwork was already spread across most of the table. We played chicken for a good thirty seconds; he stared and I pretended not to notice him staring. Ultimately deciding that was more annoying if he just stood there, I collected my files to make room. That’s when he began to move in.
Fo’ reals. He had a ton of crap with him. Again, I’m pretty good at assessing a situation with only my peripheral vision, and this dude had no less than three overstuffed backpacks that he was meticulously emptying. However, I began to notice that he was unloading some pretty serious hardware. He kept pulling out computer gadgets of all shapes and sizes, so I began to wonder, “Hmm… Maybe he’s not homeless. Maybe the greasy hair and black fingernails are a purely aesthetic choice.” This is LA.
After claiming more than two-thirds of our mutually shared real estate with his junk, he sat down… and promptly fell asleep.
He did that thing we all did in high school where you put your hand to your forehead and look down at the table. Remember that move? You assume that if your teacher can’t actually see your eyes, he won’t know you’re sleeping? Within five seconds this guy was out. I began to take inventory of his equipment. Though plentiful, it looked like it had been salvaged from a dumpster circa 1992. I also noticed that he hadn’t turned on any of his gadgets despite the fact that he brought his own power strip for all those many plugs.
That’s when I finally got it. This guy was definitely homeless. He was also smart enough to realize that you can’t loiter in the library. Perhaps he had tried it once or twice and was thrown out for his efforts. So now he had resorted to this elaborate scheme of collecting abandoned computer junk and setting it up to make the employees think that he was working. All to get some shelter and a little sleep.
I don’t know what his story was, but given that Thanksgiving was only three days away, I suddenly found myself wondering what he would be doing that day. The library would be closed. The forecast was predicting rain. Where would he go?
Until that moment, I wasn’t having the best day. Meaning, I couldn’t check Facebook from the comfort of my own home. Also, I wasn’t looking forward to fighting my way through the crowds at Trader Joe’s that evening to get my groceries for Thursday. Moreover, I was a tad annoyed that one of my students had cancelled last minute. But I still had a home. I still had food. And in just seventy-two hours, I would be eating more than one ever should in a single day while surrounded by the smiles and laughter of friends.
My table partner was still asleep by the time I had to pack up and go. I hope he was able to get the rest he so obviously needed… And to each and every one of you, a very blessed Thanksgiving. May you be safe, warm and content.