Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bumming on the Metro

Before I left for D.C., I was told it had one of the best transit systems in the country. They don't allow any food, drink or smoking in their Metro stations, which keeps things clean. I know this photo is fuzzy, but here you can see how many folks commute during the 5 o'clock rush hour on the Metrorail. This was taken at Metro Center, where three separate lines meet.

Early in our trip, my traveling buddy, KM, had seen a homeless man scouring the trash for food. I had literally overlooked him, having reverted back to my "city ways." I learned growing up on the outskirts of Houston that you don't engage the bums - no eye contact, no looks of pity, no offerings of help. KM felt horribly sad for his plight and amazed that he would actually eat leftovers from the trash. My response must have seemed harsh: "Don't give him any money, because he'll just buy booze with it."
During our walk to the hotel each evening, KM would point out these poor souls as they bedded down. The impressions of their bodies would remain visible in the grass each morning. One indigent fellow changed her perspective, however, as we boarded the Metro on our way to a mall in Pentagon City one evening. While waiting for the Metro to leave, we hear loud expletives. Every other word is the f-bomb or some maternal variation thereof. Luckily for us, the offender boards our car...spilling the contents of his trash bags all over the floor - RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. I play nonchalant - looking straight ahead, emotionless. KM's eyes widen, and she whispers, "We need to get off NOW."

As batteries, vials of liquid and cigar tips roll around near our feet, F-Bomber is still cursing a blue-streak, interjecting the statement, "DON'T YOU BE LOOKIN' AT MY M*****-F***IN' BATTERIES!! YOU WANNA F***IN' START SOMETHIN'? I'LL START SOMETHIN' RIGHT THE F*** HERE, M***** F***ER!!" I'm still playing it cool, as the train pulls away and F-Bomber decides to return to our area of the car to retrieve his m*****-f***in' batteries that KM is DEFINITELY not looking at. She and I both are statues as he bends down to pick them up, giving us a final "DON'T YOU BE LOOKING AT MY M*****-F***IN' BATTERIES!!" before returning to his seat. KM is whispering that WE NEED TO GET OFF AT THE NEXT STOP, and I'm trying to convince her to play it cool - as I'm realizing that F-Bomber is not really talking to anyone but the voices in his head. The screaming expletives are continuous, and I faintly hear the sound of the Metro driver call for Metro Police to meet us at the next station. As we are about to stop, KM jumps up, ready to bolt the second the doors open. I notice two other passengers ready to exit, and watch as they simply get off the car and onto the adjacent car to continue their trip. We follow suit, and sit where we are facing the car containing F-Bomber. KM is concerned that he will see us, realize we avoided him, and come back there to finish us off. We both notice a poor young girl, seated right in front of F-Bomber, still enduring the expletive rant that is also audible in OUR car. Of course, we reach our destination, and F-Bomber gets off as well. Luckily, Metro Police have been observing him, and detain him for a quick search and questioning. I'm not sure what they did with this man - after all, do they really have jails full of guys like this? Probably not.

The next day, KM seems relieved that we have lived thru the experience and is actually hoping for another glimpse of F-Bomber. We never did run into him again, but did see this lovely creature outside Union Station, pictured above. (I didn't take these photos of bums - that's another rule of mine.)

And, don't be lookin' at my m*****-f***in' batteries.


Karmyn R said...

I too avoid eye contact - but I can't help but feel sympathy for those who are mentally ill and either a)won't accept help, b)can't get help or c)have no other option but to live on the streets.

For as rich a country as we have - it's a sad thing to have anyone living on the streets. My husband and I routinely give money to a teen shelter in Portland....such a shame to start out so young.

Anonymous said...

I'm used to it too, unfortunately, living so close to San Francisco. But I agree with Karmyn, I do feel sympathy for them.

Sorry about the blogger/typepad fiasco - blogger and I have been fighting for about a week now. Glad you found me! ;)

Matt-Man said...

Hey Tigger: We certainly saw a pan-handle fest going on outside of Union Station as well when we were there. I had a few chats with some folks and offered up a smoke or two to them. What the hell it's better for my lungs. Cheers

Dan said...

F-bomber makes his way around, doesn't he? He's all over Manhattan whenever I visit. In fact, the Mens Room of Penn Station is filled with F-bombers, cussing up a storm in every language known to humankind. And some not known!

Kila said...

I can't stop staring at the last photo.

Arkansas Songbird said...

The people on the streets really got to me when I lived in the DC area. I remember a group of people living in cardboard campground under an overpass. I saw them everyday as I drove to and from work. It is a travesty that anyone is homeless and/or hungry in this country. There is no excuse for it. Not to mention our lack of concern/space/facilities for the mentally ill.

Desert Songbird said...

It is a travesty that there are hungry and homeless people in a nation as wealthy as ours. The health care "system" in this great nation of ours leaves so much be desired, most especially when it comes to the mentally ill.

A sad tale.

The Metro, however, is a marvel. I loved its efficiency.

Tiggerlane said...

karmyn - Very sad, indeed. I just wish I knew what happened in their family situations that left them completely abandoned. Then again, many families today are dysfunctional, which leads to the probelm of runaways.

melissa - I feel sympathy as well, but the problem is so overwhelming.

matt-man - Much easier to do as a man, I would think! Us two country girls, already a little wide-eyed, it was just too scary to think of actually approaching any of them. I got used to "getting in that mode" of indifference as a defensive mechanism when I was young and single in the city.

dan - I was trying SO HARD not to utter the f-bomb in front of KM, as she is a good Christian girl. But I had forgotten that most folks in the city pepper each and every sentence with the word. Even waiting for the Metro, we must have heard the f-bomb every 5 seconds from regular folks - just as a common expression.

killa - I didn't post the most revealing photo of the Cat Lady. She must spend a lot of time at Union Station, and if you want a closer look, check out the link here.

arkansas songbird - I think the worst homeless community I witnessed was in Chicago - literally 30 or so, living in their cardboard boxes - just horrific. Maybe if we quit giving so many benefits to illegal aliens, we could afford to take care of our homeless??

desert songbird - I agree - seems like we've got the technology to keep people alive longer, but haven't figured out what to do about the social problems it creates.

Vicki said...

Remember the guy I posted about with a feather in his hat? He was the only homeless looking person here in our little town. We are not big on homeless or sex shops. snort

I wouldn't take pictures of bums, but I'm glad you did. Miss Nosey that I am.

I would however not feel the slightest bit remorse for taking a picture of a lady wearing black net hose, a denim mini skirt, 1989 Bangs, and Elecric Blue Mascara.

gawilli said...

Before I get too far, I want to say thanks for reminding me how much I enjoyed Bob Schneider. My daughter introduced me to him with this cd a few years back. I'm a music lover also.

I think the homeless situation is an interesting one as I understand some are completely satisfied where they are. For others it is a bottomless pit. With minimum wage and the cost of healthcare I don't see how they can pull themselves up without help - but I suppose that is another debate. The shootings at Virgina Tech shed a little different light on the subject, for me anyway - particularly when you talk about mental health. Warning signs and all, this boy could have easily slid into the dark recesses of homelessness. What a picture that conjures up.

James Burnett said...

As subway systems go, I like the DC Metro. It's relatively clean and together by comparison. But subways are like homeless magnets. No matter how well organized you're gonna run into a few.

South Park is sort of about this topic tonight.

Willowtree said...

I skipped this post the first time I saw it because I thought it was about the plight of the homeless, and I didn't want to end up being politically incorrect.

But having just read it all the was through, I wish I hadn't. I can't stop laughing!

Tiggerlane said...

vicki - I'm going to have to go back and read your archives now to find out about Feather Hat Man!

gawilli - thanks for stopping by! And I'm glad to see another Bob fan. Doesn't hurt that he's kinda cute, too. The homeless/mental health issue is a BIG one in this country. It's one reason I wonder what the police did with this man - I'm pretty sure it's not against the law to utter expletives, as "normal" folks around us hurled them with reckless abandon. As for the VTech shooter - he was visibly disturbed, and the fact that so many people were alerted is frightening. I hate that we have to wait for someone to "cross that line" before stepping in. Safety vs. civil rights, I'm afraid.

james - DANG! Totally missed South Park - and I love that show! I'll have to catch the repeat. Thanks for the tip.

WT - You're more fun when you're politically incorrect. I can handle it. Glad I made you laugh!

Claudia said...

Growing up, there was this black homeless guy on the island, Marvin. He was a riot, hanging out at the beach all day, talking to people. He would always check the women out--and many times comment because he knew it would make them uncomfortable! He'd laugh and tell me about it...saying harmless things like, "yah, looking gooooood today" and watch the people stiffent up and start hurrying. I don't know what ever happened to him.

Matt said...

It's the tourists and high school kids (like youse guys, Tigger) who remind we residents of the "homeless problem" in DC.

After a while, they just kind of blend in and it's just part of the landscape, at least in the city center....

Very cute. Did you also buy one of those novelty hats that allows you to drink from two cans of beer on your head? They're so funny. :)

Matt said...

And don't be lookin' at ma motha-f*ckin' blog, Tigger!

Pamela said...

darn bloglines didn't light up!!

I've had a few run ins with crazies and I think it's because I make eye contact.

Lesson learned

Angelina said...

This was a great story and reminds me of about a thousand experiences I've had with the homeless folks in San Francisco.

In order to help the psychological aspect of the problem (the mentally ill part) a lot more people are going to need to educate themselves better on what it really means to be mentally ill, what the treatments are and work on getting more people treated before their whole lives have fallen apart.

Tough problem.

Tiggerlane said...

claudia - Marvin sounds like my kinda guy. I think I could use him for my ego!

matt - Sadly, I've never in my life owned one of those hats. Now, if they came with a beer bong...THEN...we might be talkin'.

pamela - Yeah - it's all about being a walking statue.

angelina - I totally agree. If anything good comes out the VTech tragedy, maybe the public attention will shift toward recognizing how we've failed the mentally ill as a society, and work on on how to help them.