I’m not exactly sure when this phenomenon started but over the last few years I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people panhandling on highway off-ramps.
They work in shifts with vaguely defined territories. There’s usually a resident middle-aged White male operating during the peak hours. At other times of the day, you might see the odd woman, elderly man on disability, or young drifter. Sometimes a random Black guy appears for a string of a few weeks before disappearing from the landscape. Often as we get off work, they’re just starting.
Truth be told, I’m not sure where they go afterwards. Do they just walk the highways at night? Sleep during the day behind some shrubbery? When the leaves fall in autumn, I can sometimes see the remnants of summer campsites. But where do they go in the winter?
It’s easy to dismiss the increase in homelessness as by-products of our decadent societies; urban vices, toxins and inbreeding predisposing us to mental illness. Once upon a time, I would have looked down on these people; I would’ve proudly declared that White folks have no excuse for ending up in the gutter. If you worked hard and believed in yourself, anything was possible. But as the years of labour failed to produce the desired results and personal struggles closed doors I thought would always be open, the belief faded.
On more than one occasion, I’ve skirted close to the edge of financial collapse; I even contemplated bankrupting myself as motivation to finish the book. Instead, I suffered the embarrassment of having to move back home.
I’ve been humbled. I’ve been made crazy by delayed gratification and shattered dreams. I’ve dealt with self-imposed physical abuse just to get up in the morning; naturally, by way of submission grappling six days a week and the pain of early onset arthritis, not drugs or masturbation. Okay, perhaps the latter was a slight fib.
Now it’s my time to beg. It’s my turn to work my way out of the gutter. It’s my turn to be in your rear view mirror. Few make it back to the land of the living after walking through perdition, and yet some seem to do well enough to afford a cell phone. I’m not even kidding. At least my sign is slightly funnier and just as dirty?