Friday, February 27, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare A Cap To Bust In Your Ass?

Just enough time for a quick post while I take my lunch:

I’m on the train home last night, nearly three hours before the last-call-for-homebound-drunks train at quarter to two. And yet, in this none-too-crowded NJ Transit car, one finds me. He’s an older guy, and he apparently want to go to Atlantic City (which the train does not go to). Or Philadelphia (which the train does not go to). Or Hamilton (which the train does go to, but somehow this also dismays him. “Not Hamilton,” he says. “HAMILTON. In South Jersey.” Ohhh-kay.) We discuss a few different ways he can get to wherever he’s going. I have little confidence he could pull any of them off.

Apparently he’s lost his debit card, and some of his money (I’d have thought all of it, though through some transaction with a none-too-sympathetic conductor, he manages to buy a ticket). And he also can’t use his cell phone. Perhaps he broke it, since he mentions he needs to go to the Radio Shack in Hamilton (or wherever) to get a new one, but he also mentions something about “not being able to see the numbers,” which I find entirely plausible.

He carries with him a Starbucks bag with a pound of ground coffee, and an assortment of other plastic bags, which he arrays along the aisle next to him, between him and me.

The conversation bounces along, and I quickly resign myself to not reading about Spider-Man as I had planned. Eventually, my new friend says to me, “If I robbed you, you’d have to give me all your money.”

“You don’t want to rob me,” I say.

He cuts me off, somehow offended by the subject that he brought up. “Oh, I ain’t gonna rob you. I don’t even have a gun.”

“And I am a master of karate,” I tell him.

“But if I could impinge on your generosity to give me a little of your money,” he says.

“Sir, I’m unemployed.” I say. “I need what money I’ve got.” He looks me over, and I don’t look unemployed to him. Meanwhile, he looks to me like a guy who the fates have given precisely what he's been asking for all his life.

“But you can work,” he says. “You’re young.”

We go on like this for a minute or two, until a conductor announces that people getting off at my stop will have to file up to the front of the train. So I gather my things, wish him good luck, and happily take my leave of him.

When I’m walking on the platform, I catch sight of a conductor helping him off the train. So, I think, hustling to my car before he spies me, now this guy is lurking around near my town, threatening to rob people he intends to just to ask for money. The hamhanded panhandler of New Jersey Transit.



Greg! said...

"Hamhanded panhandler." Beautiful.

Did you write the post just so you could use that?
(Not that I'd blame you.)

Rob S. said...

Yeah, you caught me. The conversation was interesting enough that I'd been thinking about blogging about it -- and when that phrase came to me, it sealed the deal.