With roughly five-to-six hundred thousand people living on the streets, homelessness is no laughing matter. Well, that’s not completely true. Anytime you see a grown man walking around with his pants full of poo, you’re bound to get a chuckle or two, even if it’s the result of a debilitating metal illness.
Scatological humor aside, homelessness is a real drag. But like everything in this crazy world, there’s always an upside. Sure, living on the streets is tough, but in some ways it can be quite liberating. Here are some examples.
Freedom of Mobility
So, you exposed yourself to a teenager outside a gas station bathroom, and she’s decided to be a bitch about it and go to the cops. For most people with a fixed address, it’s the end of the line. But not for the homeless! Once they’ve worn out their welcome in a town, or even a state, they can simply mosey on down the highway by hitching, riding the rails, or simply walking to their destination of choice.
Sure, once you arrive in your new home (so to speak), it’s going to take some time to set up shop. You’ll have to find the weakest beggar in the area and muscel in on his turf. But that’s a small price to pay for not having to live like all those suckers on the Kern County, CA, sex offender registry!
Not all homeless are the same. As most advocates are quick to point out, many are hard-working folks who are simply down on their luck. And society has always drawn the distinction, extolling the virtues of the lovable “hobo” who travels from town to town looking for work, while decrying the lazy “bum” who shuffles from place to place seeking a handout. While “hobo breakfasts” are offered at shitty dinners across our fair land, I have yet to find a “bum’s brunch,” and if I did, I probably wouldn’t eat it.
While society might tell you that hard work is the best course of action when you’re down on your luck, I’m here to tell you that’s a load of bullshit. If you’ve already hit rock bottom, why not rest a while and enjoy the freedom that comes with having nothing left to lose. It’s the freedom that only bumming can offer.
Don’t bust your ass going from town to town looking for a job that doesn’t exist. Standing on a street corner with a sign can sometimes net over $300 a day. Even if you cut that down to $50 a day, that’s still $250 a week, which isn’t that bad considering your cost of living expenses consist of bottles of Boone’s Farm and occasionally using the shower at the YMCA (optional). You might even have enough left over to afford luxieries like baby wipes or an AM radio.
Enjoy your 9 to five, idiots! Bumming is where it’s at!
(Note: Bumming is much more pleasurable in a warm climate, so try to hit rock bottom in Florida or Southern California).
If you walked into your office wearing a Montreal Expos jersey and a urine-soaked pair of Z-Cavaricci jean shorts, you’d get more than a few odd looks from your co-workers. If you spent your day screaming about the book of Deuteronomy and pleasuring yourself on the postage meter, HR would promptly show you the door. If you then returned home and set the contents of your kitchen-trash can on fire, it wouldn’t be long before your wife or significant other called the cops. Such are the constraints of living within the norms of our so-called “society.”
But if you’re homeless, the bar is set much, much lower. Not only is dressing in an outlandish and outdated outfit totally acceptable, but such behavior will often elicit pity, increasing your bottom line while “bumming” for change. And unlike average citizens, the homeless have to go to extreme lengths just to achieve eye contact, much less engage in conversation. This means your free to stand in the middle of the sidewalk and yell about whatever entity is conspiring to steal your thoughts, and no one will think anything of it. Which brings us to the fabled trash-can fire.
Of all the perks that come along with being homeless, none is more appealing than the trash-can fire. For nothing more than the cost of a pack of matches and some flammable rubbish, you can participate in a time-honored tradition celebrated by vagabonds since the dawn of metal waste receptacles. Smell the burning cardboard as you swap panhandling tips with your fellow transients. Add a tire to the fire, and reminisce about the “good-old days” when you were still living out of your car. Grab a stick, and roast yourself up that expired pack of tofu dogs you found on the sidewalk behind Whole Foods.
Aside from the social element, the trash-can fire also provides much needed heat if you happen to be living in a colder climate. And the light from the blaze adds an element of protection, warding off those teenagers from the nearby prep-school who broke your thumb and beat your dog to death last winter while you were sleeping in the park. Yes, every night is like a wonderful camping trip when you’re near a trash-can fire.
During an ill-fated attempt to get laid, I once agreed to volunteer at a soup kitchen. While serving a homeless man his allotted portion of cream-of-baloney chowder, his pocket began to vibrate. Much to my surprise, he pulled out a pre-paid cellphone and proceeded to ask the person on the other end what they were doing later in the evening. I assume the answer was “sleeping on a bed of trash,” but I’ll never know.
The incident opened my eyes to the abundance of free time available to the homeless. Most people would kill to be able to walk to the beach in the middle of a work day, or stand outside a ballpark and wait for fouls on a sunny afternoon. And there’s no need to fit in time for exercise when you spend your days walking to-and-fro. Not to mention, the public library is open to all, making it a great opportunity to catch up on the classics or use a real toilet. Yes, homelessness allows time to become quite the Renascence man…or just a raging meth-head. Either way.