No, no. That doesn’t sound right.
Gratitude. Final Answer.
This has been kicking around my head for a few days since I weighed in on a comment thread about a letter to Portland’s mayor from a tourist who lives in Lewiston, Idaho.
He’d complained rather emotionally about how all the trash cans in the city wire overflowing, there were needles all over the parks and homeless people sleeping in every doorway.
I was trying to let it go…
Then, this morning on my way to work – more on that later, maybe – I followed a tourist couple for about a block and a half. Then we passed a very unfortunate looking homeless man sitting on the sidewalk…not sleeping and not in a doorway, just to be clear.
I don’t understand why he doesn’t go to a shelter. Y’know, if he’d just go to a shelter, he wouldn’t have to sit there like that…
And there it was.
All it took to catapult me back to my frustrated Facebook space was one tourist who “knew” better. She had the “I’d like to speak to the manager haircut” and everything.
Back in the day, she was the reason for this type of Society of Native Oregonian Born humor…
Please feel free to drop off you comment cards, passive-aggressive letters to our mayor and just any advice you might want to leave for Oregonians with this guy on your way out:
Ok, do let me fill in the blanks. Let’s start with the Haircut Lady.
There’s a few different types of shelters, not counting your basic flop house. The first is a free, take all comers until we’re full type of deal. The second is a pay-your-way-in and then taking all comers til we’re full type of situation.
I don’t think I need to explain that first one. The second one – I think – runs like $5-10 a night for a bed. If you’ve ever seen a panhandler looking for handouts so they can get a hostel room? Yeah, that’s this. Hostels aren’t throwing their doors open for homeless folks, they got guests to preserve an experience for.
Obviously, you can’t earn your $5-10 for a hostel sitting in the hostel, so off to work you go. Right?
Regardless, these places are pretty much first come, first serve on a daily basis. You may get preferential consideration if you were there the prior night, but only maybe…don’t quote me. But, what the nice Haircut Lady forgot to consider as one homeless person was ruining her vacation was that shelters are more like hotels than private homes.
That means they clean the rooms during the day.
Everyone out of the hostel.
They are welcome to hang in the common areas, but if you’re running a shelter and you’ve got space for 100 or so homeless homies to hang out in your common areas? Odds are you’re thinking, “We should add beds”…after all, the concern of shelters is to provide a place for people to sleep.
Stupid Haircut Lady.
So, she made me realize that I had to save humanity from its stupid self. Ergo, I must blog.
Save us, Dopey Wan, you’re our only hope.
Haircut Lady was a pretty minor perturbance.
Applying her to the coliseum that is the Facebook, where Anonymous Posters are throwing facts and reality to the lions…
well, we’re gonna need a bigger coliseum.
A bartender acquaintance of mine – who I rather respect – posted the Oregonian article about the Lewiston Tourist on his thread next to a gas can and a dumpster and just walked to a safe distance.
I read the article.
Then I read the comments.
There was a lot of, “Wish it were better, but we live in Portland!” type comments.
Then I thought, some of these people didn’t read the article. But at least they aren’t pouring any more gas on the situation.
I found a few comments that were negative.
And then more.
Then some that were harshly so.
And, then…some that defied any semblance of humanity.
BRB, haven’t been on the Facebook in a couple days – mandatory self imposed detox – but going to see if I can screen grab the comments…the things I do for my readers.
Ok, I gotta tap out on this one. No great screen grabs for you! Sorry…
Here’s the gist of my comment,
There are two factors to consider here, outside of homelessness:
The first is that Oregon in general and Portland in particular have made social services a priority. This means that for unemployed or underemployed or people living below – what I’ll liberally call – the poverty level can get access to free healthcare (from dental to mental and everything in between) under the Oregon Health Plan. That paired with our liberal food stamps program ensures a baseline of care for people in need.
Second, since these programs were just ideas and pilot programs aimed at – amongst other things – getting Portland’s homeless youth off the streets in the 80s & 90s and turning them into productive members of society, certain other cities have been offering their homeless who run afoul of the law the option of jail or a bus ticket to Portland. This approach solves two problems: one, said municipality’s own homeless problem; two, it very likely improves the homeless person’s quality of life.
Rain be damned.
Then I shared a story from that very same week of a young man – with facial tattoos, ergo: issues or terrible judgment – that had asked me for directions downtown. I’d told him where to go and how to get there, at his request. Then he’d TMIed me by apologizing for having to ask, he just hadn’t picked up his phone yet.
Him: yeah, the county gave me a phone and this is where I have to pick it up.
Him: yeah, I’ve only been in town a week, but the first day I was here, I got my OHP insurance and my prescriptions filled…and an Oregon Trail card with some grocery money on it.
Me: wait…you’ve only been in town a week from where?!?
Him: New Jersey.
Me: and you just got all this for showing up?
Him: yeah, man.
Now, mind you…I’m standing on the street talking to this face-tattooed dude and thinking, “Right on, Oregon”, you really are the best state!
Just guess what the Facebook hive mind thought.
Never mind, I’ll tell you:
Here’s one of my more vocal critics:
My response was that my critics’ arguments all seemed to stem from what they didn’t have. Free medical, free phone, free food.
Not what they did have. A damn home. A tether to reality…even if it came without a sense of empathy.
Yeah, I pointed that out.
Don’t worry, there hasn’t been a public pillorying like I got in about 2000 years, if you get my drift..,
“Me, me, ME!” – Facebook Users
Seriously, if any of these people traded what they have for what these horrible homeless people get for “free”…well, I find it hard to believe that they could last a week before realizing that maybe what they coveted was not worth the emotional value they assigned it.
Here’s your free health care. Enjoy going to a clinic filled with “those people” to see a doctor!
Here’s your free food. Oh, and the list of items you cannot use it for: goodbye booze, nicotine, energy drinks, your dignity when an acquaintance chats you up in line at the grocer as you are paying with your Oregon Trail card…
And, here’s your free phone. Enjoy your no data plan and trying to find a welcoming public place to charge your phone up.
But, one must admire persistence. They were undeterred and stood firm in their “woe is me having to work” mantra.
Later, “they” – this aforementioned vocal critic – went on to add their thoughts (such as they are) to another thread. Take a gander:
Seriously? You don’t feel bad that a cop killed a homeless person? Obviously, this dumpster fire of a conversation degraded significantly after I weighed in.
Naturally, I had to fight my own impulses as to whether to educate, ignore or yell louder than this person.
I knew I was not engaging in that last activity. Not my style. Reason over volume any day, for me.
I was also pretty sure that whether the state of mind they were in was situational because they were all wound up over homeless people or their actual sad state of being – the current state was not ideal for absorbing or processing new information.
Fine, but just because I am choosing to ignore someone doesn’t mean I can’t take a lurk at their public (idiots…I swear) Facebook page. Right?
My takeaway there was that drag is a hobby, not a second job. Plus, it’s an expensive hobby, so if you’re doing it, your “other job” – aka: actual job – pays you well enough that you make more than the $36k (or thereabouts) threshold to qualify for free Oregon Health Plan coverage. So, shut your drawn on lips.
Also to consider: if it takes a lot of money to make Dolly Parton look so glamorously cheap, imagine how much more it takes to make an overweight, hirsute man look good in a dress.
And then – in the drag world – instead of getting a paid gig, you usually end up getting to do a number or two in someone else’s meagerly paid gig for several years until you’ve established yourself as enough of a draw to have your own show.
But trust me, our PT Drag Queen is yelling loudly at anyone and everyone about how she wants a paid gig and where is it?!? Want to guess what my bartender friendquaintance and I talked about last time we chatted?
Yup. DQs who think putting on a dress and being a bitch entitled you to a pay check.
Key Word: entitled
And that’s what brings me full circle in my frustration. This PT Drag Queen and Haircut Lady are both lamenting – although, props to Haircut Lady for at least making empathy sounds – the focus on themselves.
What if Haircut Lady considers her good fortune to be able to leave her home and travel to Portland for a weekend getaway? By the way, remember, “getaway” is travel industry lingo for “get away from it all”…so Haircut Lady has left all her troubles behind for the weekend. Sadly, viewing another person’s crisis level problems ruined her escape from her own.
But then there’s PT Drag Queen. They’re upset that they aren’t getting free healthcare, food and a phone in exchange for giving up their income and housing. As if that’s not twisted up enough, they are willing to join a class of society that they think the police should be able to essentially execute – by their own words – when they are perceived to have done something wrong.
That ain’t America.
It isn’t any modern religion I know of.
I feel like this question placement from OKStupid applies here…
It’s one thing to say it, people, and another to do it.
Anyway, it sure isn’t Portland.
I’ll gladly struggle to make it in a city and state that takes the well-being of its “worst” or least fortunate citizens and makes them a priority. After all, if we only acknowledge “those people” to complain about them, what have we done? But if we allocate tax money to help elevate our least fortunate to at least a minimal level of humanity – and I’m not kidding…it’s still a tragically low existence – than we’ve done something to help. It didn’t even cost us anything that we hadn’t already paid, either: taxes. All we had to do was go to work, something many of these homeless people are unable to do themselves.
Catch our Haircut Lady’s eyesore of a human being in a lucid enough state to ask; I’m sure he’d rather sleep inside and know where his next meal is coming from than sit on the sidewalk in filthy and rather unflattering clothing, drooling onto himself while people walk by, clucking their tongues in disgust.
My gregarious street youth?
He actually asked me if I knew where he could get a job. I told him Amazon seems to always be hiring…
Long and short of it, he’d probably happily take PT Drag Queen’s day job so that she could get all her well-deserved freebies the state and county have to offer.
Stupid Americans…where did we learn to think this way?
One of the things that makes me “grumpiest” is that I went to Catholic school.
No, wait…that came out wrong.
I am grateful that I went to Catholic school. The values I learned there – from the Bible I tell ya! – gave me a foundation to be at least a passing human being in life. I sure as hell (not a real place, BTW) am not perfect in anyone’s eyes: “god’s”, Christian’s, sexual or racial minority’s…so, thankfully I never claimed to be.
No, what makes me grumpy is that collectively we do such a poor job of practicing the simple lessons I learned from Catholic school and the Bible. These days, instead of doing unto others as we’d have done unto us – right? There’s no actual effort required for that one! At a baseline level, actually doing nothing earns us nothing in return.
But then we break the arrangement: we judge someone else.
How about that tenth commandment? Need a refresher?
People would – if you believe their words – kill for “a body like that” or “a decent parking space”…we’re America, we can bust two commandments in one go.
And then there’s some easy to ignore lessons from outside the Bible, since I know my education was a privilege.
Walk a mile in their shoes
I like to think of this as a Church of Elvis lesson, but it’s more likely a Native American idiom, where shoes are actually moccasins.
Humor aside, the saying cautions us against envy and toward empathy.
But that’s proving to be a struggle. Isn’t there just an Instagram filter that applies empathy?