Upon my arrival at McDonald's I peered in the window to see if Serena was working and thankfully she was. I entered and when she saw me she lit up and beamed at me. I beamed back. She asked me what I wanted (sotto voce, of course) and I told her that anything would do. She soon handed me a couple of Big Mac's, a huge quantity of french fries, and a soda large enough to replenish the Rillito River!!!! I proceeded to devour the food as it had been early morning when I had last eaten so I was pretty ravenous. During my meal, she came over to sit with me and she showed me a picture of her little girl who was about six months old. She told me that she missed the infant terribly but would soon be re-united with her when she had to leave the group home she was staying in. I made the appropriate responses and we parted company for the day with promises to see each other again soon.
I was pretty tired at this point, so I wandered back up to the bus stop and sat down to rest awhile. No one was around so I decided it had been a pretty full day and opted for sleep. Little did I know at this point that this would be my last night in my particular location.
I awakened at an early hour, around 5 AM, and looked around carefully before scrambling out of my lair. Like airplane flights, a homeless person has two very dangerous moments in using his spot -- (equivalent to takeoffs and landings) entry and exit. If u can get in sight unseen, u will probably be ok for the evening provided u don't get carried away and make too much noise. The exit can be a little trickier due to being done in daylight. At both times u really have to watch what you are doing.
As I made my way
out of the spot, I went to sit down on the bus stop bench to comb my hair,
tie my shoes, and generally
get ready to face the new day. As I was doing this, I felt a presence
behind me and turned to look directly into the face of one of the meanest
looking police officers I had ever seen!!!
DISCLAIMER -- at this juncture I would like to make a statement about prejudice. In no way do I condone nor support any type of prejudice- be it racial, ethnic, religious, etc. However, any man who claims to be totally without prejudice is either a liar or a fool. Since I consider myself neither of those, I must admit to having just one prejudice- and it's a big one!!! I CAN'T STAND SECURITY OFFICERS!!!!!!!!! This does not include the police, who I feel have an extremely difficult job to do, nor any other member of a BONA FIDE law enforcement agency. This is directed solely at those individuals who don a uniform, grab a tin badge and a whistle, and are ready to fight crime at a moments notice!!! In other words, the cop wannabes who for one reason or another cannot become a real cop (usually due to a mental or physical deficiency- emphasis here on MENTAL) but who "think" that by wearing some sort of uniform and being assigned to guard a soda machine all night that they are somehow fighting crime!!! And by this I don't mean the poor old retiree who takes a security job at Wal-Mart because his wife died or because his pension is not enough to live on- those people usually need these jobs and are relatively benign. No, I am speaking of the kinds of people who suffer from what I was brought up to believe in as "the Wyatt Earp Syndrome" This terrible affliction is characterized by delusions of grandeur, the adoption of a swaggering gait (no doubt trying to emulate their childhood heroes) and the mistaken belief that they and only they can put an end to crime as we know it.
If you think I came upon this prejudice easily, you are wrong!!! All my adult life I have dealt with these types in industry, schools, public places, etc. and my conclusion is that I have never met one of these people who was not a FUCKING IDIOT!!!!! Each and every one believe that they should carry a gun (heaven forbid!!!!) and have full police powers.
"Waiting for a bus, boy?" was his greeting. Since he and I were about the same age I kinda resented him calling me "boy".
"Yeah" was my reply, so startled was I by his sudden appearance it was all I could muster at that point and I was convinced, momentarily, that he had seen me exiting my lair. He hadn't, of course, but I believe he had his suspicions.
He then launched into a tirade about homeless people hanging around bus stops and falling down drunk and all the other clichés that homeless people fall victim to, his voice rising octave by octave and his face getting redder and redder with each word that I feared (hoped, actually) that he would have a myocardial infarction on the spot!!!! As he continued his harangue, I began to take in the various parts of his uniform. Festooned with a lot of shiny badge-like things and what appeared to be campaign ribbons on his chest and shoulders, along with massive sets of stripes on each arm he was quite an imposing sight. Perched at a jaunty angle on his somewhat smallish head (containing an equally smallish brain, I'm sure) was the most ridiculous looking Smokey-the-Bear hat I had ever seen. On his belt there hung a dazzling array of all the latest in crime fighting tools, a mag-lite, a cell phone, a few pens in holsters (ah, they love those holsters) a whistle (tres mandatory - these guys like to make noise).
Then it struck me,
with all the splendid raiment and the apocalyptic voice, the fucker had
NO GUN!!!!!! Aha, a voice in my head said, here we have the quintessential
Turns out, as I later discovered, he was the CHIEF of the quasi-military
U of A SECURITY Force!!
WooHOO!!!! (It should be noted here that Tucson has many layers of police:
the Tucson Police Department, the University of Arizona Police Department
(who are full-fledged police officers but whose jurisdiction covers the
campus areas), the Community Service Officers (young men and women, co-opted
by the police to become "little policemen" who are suffering from juvenile
onset Wyatt Earp Syndrome) and so on, down to the aforementioned U of A
Security Force- "the few, the brave, the stalwart!!!")
"And I will have none of that on MY WATCH" he thundered!!!!!! This last was delivered with a resounding clap of his hands. While he was carrying on like a crazed lunatic I couldn't help but hear the theme song to the WYATT EARP TV show of my youth (you have to be in your mid fifties or so to remember this show, or be lucky enough to have TV LAND on your cable service).
Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,
In any event, as he stormed off presumably to look for other nefarious lawbreakers, one thing became perfectly clear to me - my spot was now off limits as I was convinced he would be in the area the next few mornings just looking for me. (Much more on the subject of "Smokies" later folks. These dudes are just such a pathetic joke they need more ink. Stay tuned!!)
With a sigh of resignation and a little anger, I headed for McDonalds for some coffee and solace. I bought a breakfast sandwich and a coffee and sat in front at one of the little tables to enjoy this repast and to think of what I might do for the next night as far as sleeping arrangements were concerned.
I headed for the corner to await the news agent's arrival with my daily
fix of newspapers.
I spied Jay sitting on the cement wall in front of the hotel on the corner
where the papers would be dropped and related my experience with the Smoky.
(I immediately dubbed all the U of A security guards with this appellation
and it has since been adopted by so many other homeless people in the area
that it has almost become a cliché.) Jay told me not to worry, that
I could join him at his spot for the evening and I was immediately relieved,
thinking that, for one more night at least, I had a place to crash.
As darkness fell,
Jay re-emerged from wherever Jay had been all day, and we headed for his
After my morning fix of coffee, I rejoined Jay at the Lutheran building and we went in and took showers and attempted to get a sack lunch (the answer was no- we had already had been given one for the month and would not be eligible for another till the next month).
As we headed for the corner to await the papers we passed the bus stop on the northeast side of the street and Jay pointed to a middle-aged black gentleman sitting on the bench. He warned me to be careful of this dude, known as James, because he hated white people and was a known snitch to the cops. Duly noted. We made our way past him and went across the street to the paper drop-off point. In just a few moments both racism and violence would turn the day upside down for us all!
- As I have previously mentioned I abhor prejudice in any form so