Why homeless guys can make great dinner companions

24 Aug

Walking to the shops today I was approached by a young lad, blue t shirt, long brown shorts, tattoos and scars emblazoned up his arms and legs, basically the kind of person you don’t want to meet down a dark alley at night.

I wasn’t in a dark alley but it was night. As he staggered drunkenly towards me I debated crossing the road to avoid him. Not saying I live in a particularly bad area but we get our fair share of rapes and stabbings, especially in the park behind my flat and it was the road running next to this park that I was walking along now.

He’d seen me now though, we’d made eye contact, therefore crossing the road could either be seen as a sign of weakness or rejection. Drunks can be tricky to handle (I learnt this from many years behind the bar of the local nightclub) but they’re infinitely worse when they suspect you harbour negative feelings, fear, disgust, hatred, and so I decided the only thing I could do would be to brazen it out and confidently walk past him as if I hadn’t a care in the world.

So I did.

Just as he drew level with me he stopped and said the one thing that no one wants to hear late at night.

“Excuse me.”

I considered just ignoring him and carrying on walking but decided against it, not wanting to anger him.

So I stopped, and I turned and looked at him, and I waited. It didn’t take long.

“I’m really sorry to have to ask you this,” he said, and he really did sound sorry, unlike some of the kids you get trying their luck, ” it’s so embarrassing, but I wondered if you could spare me 50p so I could buy a pouch of baccy?”

Now I’d just been paid and I had a fair amount of cash on me. Worst case scenario, I say no and it angers him and he robs me, or I say yes, he sees the cash and he robs me. He didn’t seem aggressive though, more like ashamed and unable to meet my eyes as he made his simple request and so I took the risk and pulled out my wallet, handing him a £2 coin and hoping he’d leave.

He seemed almost pathetically grateful as I handed him the money and he thanked me profusely, turning to walk beside me in the direction of the shops as ‘girls like you shouldn’t be walking round here on your own this time of night’.

As we walked, he told me about himself. He was homeless, he told me, didn’t give a reason or make excuses just stated it as a fact, and that was why he was out so late at night, because the shelter he was staying at didn’t open til 11pm.

He asked me if I knew of the shelter and I said I did and he seemed pleased. He told me how happy he’d been to get in there and off the streets, somewhere where you could wash and change your clothes, have a decent meal and a bed for the night without having to worry about being woken up by gangs of drunken youths pissing on you or trying to start a fight. Sleeping in shop doorways is no fun, he said, no one would choose that.

He went into the shop and got his baccy and I picked up the few bits I needed. He was waiting for me when I left, ‘not safe for a girl like you to walk around on your own this time of night’.

Weirdly I didn’t feel threatened by him as he offered to walk me home, but being cautious about who I give my address to I found myself suggesting we go to the pub.

An hour later, over dinner and a pint, I realised I was quite enjoying myself. I was out on a Friday night, having an interesting and intelligent conversation with a man who was not only the perfect gentleman (apart from the money situation obviously), but who also, unusually for someone his age (I’d say around 23/24) had plans and hopes and dreams and aspirations.

Here was someone who, by rights, should have been written off by society as a lost cause and yet he had his life planned out. He was in the top priority list for housing, would hopefully get a bedsit of his own within the next few weeks but he didn’t see that as the easy way out.

He openly admitted he had problems, he self harmed, he drank and smoked too much and he had various other issues. He understood that while getting a place of his own would give him a more settled environment, that in itself wouldn’t be enough, he needed to get a job and be able to support himself, in fact he’d already signed up with the local college to get himself some qualifications to make up for the gcse’s he hadn’t bothered with.

He wanted to get a job in construction, maybe take night classes and move into architecture or engineering once he had the right qualifications. He knew it would be difficult but that was what he wanted to do.

An hour or so passed and our table was clear. He declined another drink, ‘I’d feel like I was taking the piss’ and again declared his intention to walk me home.

This time I let him.

He left me at my front door, again thanking me profusely and apologising for taking so much of my time, then he staggered off into the night.

And as he left I thought how strange it was, that someone who by rights should have given up long ago was still trying his hardest to make something of his life, whilst other men his age were content to sit at home and do nothing.

And how odd that a drunken, homeless ‘bum’ had shown me more care and respect over the course of one evening than many so called ‘respectable’ young men.

It seems crazy to suggest that your average online dater or ‘twitterer’ take lessons from someone who doesn’t even have a phone, let alone an Internet connection, but if there were classes in ‘how to treat a lady’ then I’d recommend him as the teacher, and the guys who send cock shots on twitter or uninvited crude messages on okc. I’d recommend they attend.

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One Response to “Why homeless guys can make great dinner companions”

  1. Captain Shame August 28, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    Read this too.

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