Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stuck in a Parable

Wee Who See the Deep - Black Crowes (mp3)
The Sun is Shining Down - JJ Grey + Mofro (mp3)
[NOTE: JJ Grey + Mofro will perform for FREE at Nightfall in Chattanooga on Friday, July 3. A pox on your houses if you can make it but choose to miss out!]

On Sunday afternoon, as my wife and youngest hit Napville, I made a run to Starbucks to write for a little while and then to pick up a few needed groceries for the evening's affairs. I scootered myself down one of Chattanooga's mini-autobahns known as "South Terrace." Three-quarters of the way down, I hit a red light but continued to live in my distant musical world, singing along with whatever glorious song played on my iPod. (Yes, I wear my iPod when riding my scooter, which seems to some people a death-wish.)

Due to the loud earbuds, I failed to notice that this older fat guy in a holey T-shirt had walked riiiight up to me on my scooter and was saying something to me not eight inches from my helmeted noggin. He was covered in sweat. Drenched in it, in fact. Sunday was a hot, muggy day (as opposed to those standard summer days in Chattanooga, when it's a breezy and mild 74...).

He was sitting at this stop light selling Sunday newspapers. In the Employment Hall of Shame, this job is right there next to standing on the side of the road dressed up in Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam costumes to promote tax filing services or holding up Little Caesar's signs to promote their $5 pizzas. I'm pretty sure crack whores look down on these people.

Trying not to react too quickly in panic, I paused my music and asked him to repeat himself.

"Are you coming back this way?" he asked.

"No sir," I said, mostly telling the truth. "Why?"

The light turned green.

"It's so hot out here, and I was hoping you might be --"

I waved him off and said I was sorry and began to ride down the road. " -- willing to bring me back something to..." he said as I was puttering away. He probably wanted something to drink.

I'm not a very generous or selfless person, but my "good" moments tend to sprout in small and unplanned ways. This is exactly the kind of small and unplanned moment that tends to activate my philanthropic heart. Give homeless people a ride. Throw some extra change into that "fund" at a sandwich shop. Take a beggar into some place and buy a drink or a sandwich. Help someone push their broken-down car off the road then look under the hood and shake my head, as if there was any chance in hell I'd have the slightest clue what was wrong (I'd have better chances of scattering chicken bones on a table to diagnose engine trouble).

I don't do it every chance I get, mind you. But when I get that "vibe" that I "really should," then I heed my vibe.

Yet, for entirely unacceptable reasons -- green light, "not feeling it" -- I scooted away from his request and went along my merry way. When I got caught by the next red light, I began to wonder if I'd just had a Biblical Moment, a Divine SAT test in which I failed. ("When I was thirsty you gave me drink" yada yada.) It stayed on my shoulders as I sat down with my fancy coffee, knowing I'd turned away the angel at my door, "the least of these."

Oh well. Too late to do anything, right? So I finish my coffee and wrap up my writing, and I go get the necessary groceries at Wally World.

I get home only to discover that the checkout lady had managed to require three separate plastic bags for what amounted to eight paltry frikkin' items. I'd only stuffed two bags into my scooter compartment. I'd left one behind.

Yup. I was gonna have to get back on my scooter and drive riiiiight past that very same place where I'd told the man 90 minutes earlier that I wouldn't be going by there again. So I threw two bottles of water into my scooter bag and headed back for Wally World. I would stop off and hand these bottles to the man on my way, thus clearing my conscience and culpability.

But he was gone. This old fat sweaty hulk of a thirsty man and his stack of unsold Sunday papers were no longer there.


BeckEye said...

He probably died. Enjoy your coffee!


MofroFans1 said...

Hope y'all made it to JJ Grey & Mofro. Wouldn't want to see no poxes...

troutking said...

At least you describe him and his vocation charitably...