There is a man who stands at the intersection of Cary Street and Thompson. He holds a cardboard sign that reads, “Homeless… Please Help.” (I added the punctuation.) He’s there every evening holding his sign, staring at the drivers of the passing vehicles with the most blank expression on his mustached face. Every so often he lazily swings out one of his pudgy red hands with the palm only so slightly open. He rarely utters a syllable. In fact he looks bored, if not disillusioned, as if his occupation lost its luster decades ago and all of this is mere force of habit. His eyes don’t register the plight of his homeless state. He appears to have no sense of urgency, as though the direness of his straits is only as dire as a ride on a slow Ferris Wheel. (I’m about to sound cynical and feelingless, so forgive me if you’re one of those bleeding hearts.)
This man also has the most neatly groomed mullet I’ve ever seen. His mustache is always trimmed. His clothes are always clean. His dirty work boots appear to have been intentionally and artfully soiled, but if this is the only article of attire on his body with which he hopes to inspire compassion and empathy in the passersby, he needs to go back to Homeless Training Camp or something.
Every time I see him I am stirred with a blend of anger and apathy. Tonight, on my way home from work, I saw him there at his usual post and he looked almost pristine. He clearly had a fresh mullet cut, and his cheeks were even rosy like that old fart who used to do those soup commercials. Yet there was his sign (which was a clean slab of immaculate white poster board), asking me — albeit indirectly — for my help.
I looked down at my grease-soiled work apparel. I looked at my filthy sneakers, which used to be white but are now coal-black. I looked at the untamed tufts of hair sticking out of my hat, and the dark circles under my eyes. A more than faint aroma of burger grease and industrial cleaning products emanated from my body and made their persistent ascent to my nostrils. Then I took another sidelong glance at our friend, the Immaculate Mullet Man, and thought, “Buddy, you gotta be kidding me.”
Last summer, I saw this same man in the 7-Eleven in Carytown. He was strolling up and down the aisles wagging that bloated hand of his, parading his ever freshly trimmed mullet like he was some kind of show pony.
I was with my sister at the time, and he eyed her lasciviously once or twice. I pulled a six-pack of Miller Lite (because it’s cheap) out of the cooler and turned on my heel to head to the register. Mister Nape Drape himself approached me and mumbled something incoherent under his breath. I thought he was making some lewd remark about my sister and was immediately on the defensive. I looked at him and said, “Excuse me, sir. I didn’t catch that.” He said, “Hey, man. Why don’t you buy me a beer.” I laughed out loud and responded, “Honey, you have to take me to dinner first.”
True story. Ask my sissy.