There but for the grace of something…
Over the weekend we delivered to one of our favorite… well… my favorite places. Do you remember the shipper we delivered to before in Newark, NJ? Yeah you’re thinking of the right place. It was the one with all the crack-hos and pimps. Anyway we delivered there again this weekend. Boy have they cleaned that joint up. The main docks that used to be all blocked off by empty trailers are now wide open, in use and easy to hit. It didn’t take me five minutes to hit the dock and go back to sleep.
After a while they came pounding on the door to tell us we were unloaded. I got up, pulled away from the dock, and went out to shut the trailer doors. Just got the trailer doors shut, got back in the truck and pulled out onto the street to park for a while when the rain started pouring. That was a close one. Not much to do so I just sat there and played with the camera while it rained. Oh and stared longingly at the Popeye’s across the street. We love their chicken, but obviously can’t have it very often anymore. So I just shot pics and gazed at the Popeye’s. I put some of the pics I took up over on the Pics Page if you want to see them. I ate the chicken but that part comes later.
Anyway, when it finally quit raining I waited for all the flooding in the streets to go down and headed straight to Popeye’s. Stace doesn’t much like the idea of me being out of the truck in that neighborhood, but she is willing to bend her rule for chicken unlike for the McDonalds that is located right next to the receiver. So I took just enough cash to get our chicken and to hand out to the panhandlers and headed across the street. Sure enough, I had barely placed our order before two ladies hit me up at almost the same time for enough cash to get something to eat.
They both seemed to be junkies, but I could have been mistaken about that. Not that I really care. I think pretty much everyone should get the stick out of their butts when it comes to addicts. Here’s how I look at it… I am currently addicted to: Diet Coke, cigarettes, and Atomic Fire Balls. At various times in the past I have been addicted to chocolate, Tetris, pot, Taco Bell’s burrito supreme, Outback Steakhouse’s porterhouse (actually that one may be ongoing), logic puzzles, and Indigo Girls cds just to name the first few things that popped into my head.
Most everybody has things they either are now or have been addicted to in the past. I know this is true because nothing else explains “American Idol” or “The Real Housewives of Orange County” or the crazy crazy success of Ben&Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. I’m not saying that Chunky Monkey isn’t an extremely fine ice cream, my point is that virtually everyone has been addicted to something at some point.
So I think it would really behoove us all to lighten up on the addicts. Because here’s the plain truth… you got lucky while they didn’t. It’s just that simple. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t gotten incredibly lucky when I was young I would – or at least could – right now be a pitiable crack-ho asking some stranger for some cash to buy dinner which I then wouldn’t buy cause I really need the money for a fix. Do you know what saved me?
I was never offered any real drugs by someone I trusted. Oh Stace and I were offered drugs like LSD, crack, and meth or whatnot in college but always by skeezy-looking losers that I wouldn’t have trusted as far as I could have thrown them. That made it all too easy to turn them down and ended up saving my ass. So many people get hooked the very first time they try these drugs and I’m sure I would have been one of them. Simply put… I got lucky. These poor women with the desperate eyes standing in front of me in the Popeye’s didn’t. How can you not feel pity for them?
So I handed out the cash until my chicken was ready and then headed back to the truck with my bounty. It was excellent and I had just finished eating and was in a damned fine mood when a lady walked up to the truck asking for some change to go buy a chicken leg. She was incredibly thin and walked kinda hunched over. I gave her a $5 and she asked if she could also have a drag off my cigarette. So I also gave her a pack of smokes and a lighter. Her face lit up and after much thanking and blessing she headed straight to the Popeye’s and actually bought some food. She sat over on the wet grass at the edge of their lot and ate her supper.
About an hour later, she came back over by the truck just to say thank you for the meal. Then she started talking about how she was homeless and didn’t like asking for help but didn’t know what else to do. She told us how we should be extra careful if people walked up to the truck and talked about how scared she was to sleep in that area of town because there was some man killing women around there and the police didn’t care. She told me all about how last weekend a woman that she called Smelly Shelly had been found dead. Her body was found a couple of blocks over in the yard of one of the big project apartments and her head had been found in the McDonald’s dumpster about an eighth of a mile behind us down the street. Three weeks before that a girl named Tammy had been found about a mile up the street in front of us. She said that was why she was very scared to be around people after dark.
I asked her where she slept at night and she said she had a little hole she had made in the foundation of one of the buildings that butted up against the receiver we had just delivered to earlier. She said as soon as it started getting dark she slipped off to her hole and stayed there until morning. She smiled up at me and told me that it wasn’t so bad — at least it was warm and dry.
It was all so heartbreaking. I wished I could do something real for her… something that might make a real difference in her life. But I knew there was nothing I could do. So we just kept chatting. When it started getting dark and she showed signs of wanting to leave I gave her another pack of cigarettes and a $20 and wished her good luck. Then I just had to sit there in my fancy-pants $100,000 home on wheels and watch her shuffle off into the shadows. How do you not have pity on her? Especially when you realize that except for dumb-luck that could be you? I hope to see her again next time we deliver there but I’m not counting on it. I still find myself thinking about her though and wondering if she is ok. The really sad truth is that it’s only a matter of time before the streets catch up to her. Sigh.
There wasn’t a lot of time to sit around and be bummed out that night. For obvious reasons we had to get the hell out of there now that it was growing dark. Our next load was picking up over in Jersey City and I knew we could sleep at the shipper. I also knew that the shipper was a high-security facility so we would be ok sleeping there overnight. Just as we were getting ready to head out I noticed there was a huge plume of smoke rising from a fire just a couple of miles in front of us. I shot a couple of pictures but it was already dark so they only came out so-so. Then we headed over to the shipper and shut it down for the night.
In my next post we will see how I went from the depths of despair during the evening in Newark to the heights of joy the next morning in Jersey City. All because of talking to another TWMNBN driver who was getting loaded at the same joint. You won’t believe what he told us. It could be one of the greatest things I ever heard in my life… or at least in the past few years.