I had an interesting evening tonight and thought I’d share it. My neighborhood is a great ‘walking district’, full of restaurants, shops, & bars, many with outdoor seating along the public sidewalks. Out on my daily stroll (my way to avoid ‘computer arse spread’) I stopped at one of the trendy restaurants, the Blue Moon, to have a nice dinner in the breezy late spring evening air. A Mambo Cubano (Cuban-style pressed sandwich with smoked pork loin, chili-coffee pork carnitas, Swiss cheese & dill pickle) grilled sandwich & barbeque sweet potato fries accompanied by an Edgefield Alexander (brandy, coffee liquers, & cream on ice).
As I waited for my server & then my order, being an older, single lady eating alone, I expected relative peace & quiet. Waiters tend to disregard me, the young folks milling about on the street don’t notice me. I had the local freebie papers to peruse and a good drink to relax with.
It turned out very different. An old, unkempt, homeless looking man came along, and not being blind to me as the rest of the world, he asked if I’d like to buy a copy of the street paper, Street Roots. Despite my introverted need to use my anonymous nature and my determination to thwart any interruptions of said routine if they do arise, in the goal of enjoying a peaceful meal, he had my attention.
I love Street Roots. I love street papers in general and what they give us. Most of all I love the down & out folks who choose to sell the local street paper rather than beg, borrow, or steal their way through hard times. Their job has more dignity than the most dignified job in this city. When a person who is at their lowest of down and out chooses to sell a street paper instead of the many bad choices they could be making, despite the harassment, discrimination, & pressures from business owners & police they will experience, I feel deep respect for them.
We chatted for some time as most street paper vendors are typically well educated in local politics & policies. I enjoyed myself very much and bought the paper and gave him a generous tip as well. During our conversation, my server noticed the man speaking with me, and concerned for my safety, he signaled the question ‘are you ok with this situation?’ I spoke up telling him I’m fine.
I understand the server’s position. Too many people these days expect business owners and officials to protect them from what may be socially awkward situations. I think the people with these sorts of expectations need to examine themselves. I think it’s more than a little emotionally retarded to expect others to say ‘no’, ‘I’m not interested’, or ‘please don’t bother me right now’.
What is the problem with people these days? Is this only in the United States that people seem to have such a sense of privilege that they can’t even speak for themselves and feel it’s the duty of others to provide them with a rose colored world of sweet nothings?
Later, paying my bill, I thought I’d let my server know that, at least I, if no one else, think that it’s not his job to ‘protect’ me from conversations started by passers-by. I was surprised to learn that he felt the same way about street paper vendors and the many expectations his customers have of him. His own father is a sociologist of high regard who studies homelessness and he is very educated on the subject as a result.
Our resulting conversation left me feeling good that I’m not the only one around who thinks the current paradigm on social protectiveness and on classist descriminatory practices is, well, to be polite since I’m in such a generous mood, bull-hockey.
And that’s my thought for the day. Feel free to add your comments on the subject. I’d love to hear other perspectives on these interesting matters.