Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homeless ... homeless ... like the Christ-child was*

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a strong affinity for the homeless. Today I left work a bit early (I've come down with a run-of-the-mill cold, but since the good old DB has busted out hand sanitizer on every floor and is sending semi-regular emails on the importance of guarding against H1N1, I started feeling like a guilty little plague rat, and packed up my stuff just to be on the safe side). As I was crossing South Temple, I ran into an elderly homeless woman in a kid's pink coat. She made direct eye contact with me and mumbled something. I had a couple extra bucks on me, but I wanted to be sure what she was saying. (After all, maybe she only wanted directions.) So I leaned closer. "Pardon me?" I said politely.

More unintelligble whisper/mumbling.

I frowned. "Pardon me?" I repeated.

All the sudden Mumbler scowled and screamed, "Don't you know not to STUTTER?!?!" in my face.

Big pause, then me trying not to laugh. I nodded and smiled like an idiot and went on my way.

Anyway, I feel like this is as good a time as any to give you a rundown of my fave homeless people stories.

(I will not repeat the Noodles and Co. guy story, but if you want to hear that one:

1. Pinky

The U law library is a public facility, which means it's open to everyone -- including the address-challenged.  Homeless shelters in Salt Lake are usually closed during the day, which means during hot summer months and cold winter ones, homeless people have to find a place to stay cool or stay warm.  Libraries are a gold mine for them.

For the most part, the homeless people and the law students have a friendlyish relationship.  We stayed out of their way, they stayed out of ours.  Occasionally one would corner you and start asking for help with legal problems.  (Big no-no for law students, as the administration would remind us every year - you have to be a real lawyer to dispense legal advice, or supervised by one.)  (By the way, if that ever happens to you, loyal readers, recommend they go to Homeless Court - yes, it's a thing - or the free clinic under the overpass on Sunday mornings.  The Salvation Army gives out breakfast, and supervised law students give out as much help as they can.)

But sometimes the homeless people and the law students have a tense relationship (to put it mildly).  When I was 2L, one of the more infamous homeless people was nicknamed Pinky.  Pinky was a transvestite male-to-female who dressed all in pink--pink miniskirts, pink tank tops, pink sunglasses with pink lenses, pink plastic bracelets, pink socks, pink cardigans, pink size-14 stilletos.  Pinky also liked to sit on the couches and watch porn on his/her laptop.

No one I know got close enough to investigate whether it was gay, straight or tranny porn ... but the subject was debated quite a bit.

I don't know what happened to Pinky.  Maybe he/she found a new place to hang out, because he/she stopped coming around so much by my 3L year.  But I did see him/her riding a bike one time around Salt Lake, and then had to frantically glance away lest Pinky's skirt-on-bike ensemble reveal whether he/she was pre- or post-op.

2. The Giggler

Another of our law library homeless friends was The Giggler.  Everyone got along with The Giggler, because she was very nice, and quite obviously mentally ill.  (Best guess?  Non-violent paranoid schizophrenic - but this is based solely on years of watching Law and Order: SVU.  I'm fairly certain one or two people tried to investigate whether she could or should be committed to a mental hospital, but that's sort of a hard thing to work out with non-violent homeless folks).  The Giggler, well, giggled a lot, and wore blankets over her head, and insisted that people were out to get her, including Britney Spears.  She discovered codes on the internet and newspapers, and was trying to crack them.  She wore fuzzy slippers in the winter, and would always express such surprise when snow would soak through them and get her feet cold.  On more than one occasion she would hand you a laminated sheet of gibberish, tell you it was a "mathematical formula" and ask you to proof read it.  All in all, she was a pretty nice lady, but she had a tendency to pester.

The only time I ever saw anyone lose their temper with The Giggler was during finals week, which is when law students lose their tempers with everyone.  (It was a crim pro study group, I believe, and finally my friend Amy** snapped at her to leave us alone after being asked to proof read the formula AGAIN.)  But The Giggler was pretty cool, and never seemed to get angry back.

3.  The "Why" Guy: Technically Not A Homeless Story

Now, this one didn't happen to me ... it happened to my good friend Lacey.  Lacey works at the _________________ (a public interest firm that shall remain nameless), and part of her job is to head up to the mental institution on a regular basis and make sure the crazies are doing OK.

As a disclaimer: Lacey is a good person.  Lacey uses her law degree to do public interest work.  Lacey opposes the new proposed Salt Lake City ordinance that would outlaw panhandling.  Lacey did not call them "crazies;" I did.

Last week Lacey made her trip and gave her speech ... "If any of you have any concerns ... our email address is ... you have the right to be treated fairly ... does anyone have any questions?"

One guy raised his hands.  Lacey smiles and calls on him.   He stands up, breathing heavily, and yells, "Why ... are you such ... a SLUT?"

Lacey's smile gets a little less genuine, and she tries to move onto the next question.  But the guy repeats his question: "Why ... are you such ... a SLUT?"  At this point, some of the other patients start nodding, as if they are also wondering why Lacey is such a slut.  Lacey loses all control of the meeting, and frantically tries to make her polite exit.

(I don't know this next part for sure, but part of me pictures the doctors and nurses standing in the back of the room, laughing and of being absolutely no help.)  

* My friend Ryan used to sing that randomly when we'd be studying in the law library. Nope, he wasn't actually religious. But Ryan is a good singer, so it got in my head, and now mentally I'm belting that out every time I see a homeless person.  Fortunately, I don't know any other words, and I have no intention of learning them.

** Not her name.

*** Like that pic?  I used that on my sister Echo's housewarming party invites when she finally closed on her condo and stopped couch-surfing the greater Salt Lake area.

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