The Homeless Hate Granola Bars
One and a half good things happened today. I always carry granola bars to give to homeless people on the train. I can’t tell you how many homeless people I have disappointed when I handed them a granola bar instead of money. In fact, two of the most disappointed faces I’ve seen in the last few months were caused by granola bars.
The first was a homeless lady that I had photographed before. She was standing in front of the fried chicken takeout near the West End train station in downtown Dallas. She asked me for money because she was hungry. Her face lit up as I reached into my backpack, and just as quickly her face turned to disappointment as I put the granola bar in her hand.
She said, “What the fuck is this, a cracker? I said I was hungry!”
The other time was also at a downtown train station, waiting for a train due to arrive in six minutes. I was eating a granola bar when a homeless guy approached me. He said, “Sir, can I have a little bite of that granola bar?” And he had such a pitiful face. So I handed him a granola bar. He unwrapped and ate it immediately.
Normally the reaction to a free granola bar is more like the old lady’s, so I was pleased with myself that after all this time, a homeless person appreciated it. But actually, he was just softening the target – me. He knew he had another five minutes to wait so he circled back around and just before the train arrived he asked me for five bucks. And then I was the one with the disappointed face. He only pretended to enjoy the granola bar, because he knew it would make me feel good. What he really wanted was the cash, and I don’t blame him for trying.
So anyway, I was sitting at the West End train station waiting for the train, eating a granola bar, and this guy walks up to me and says hey do you have another granola bar?
So I handed one to him and he ate it and seemed happy. Problem is, I don’t think he was homeless. I think he was a maintenance worker at a hospital who was on his way home and just hungry. No problem at all, I am happy to give a granola bar. While it may have stopped the janitor’s grumbling stomach, technically my granola bars still stand unappreciated by the homeless. Draw half of a tally mark on my good deed scoreboard.
Now the other good thing that happened today was another homeless person who rides the rails actually spoke to me directly. He’s as close to a cuddly Teddy bear of a homeless guy as you will find. I always say hello or ask him a question, but he always just mumbles and avoids making eye contact.
Today it looked like rain so I left my bicycle at home. After work I rented a bike from the VBike share program, rode to dinner in Deep Ellum, and then I rode around downtown watching the lightning storm.
I’m not sure that all the homeless people quite understand the bike share program’s security measures. The bikes are not secured to anything, but their rear wheels are immobilized until you unlock it via Bluetooth using the Smartphone app. I forgot to lock it when I was eating dinner. When I returned to the train station the VBike was still there, but somebody had moved it. I could tell it hadn’t gone on a joyride though, because the app shows your mileage and journey on a map.
With 24 minutes to kill I rode around the Arts District, watching lightning bolts stretch across the sky between skyscrapers. When I finally pulled into the West End station, I got off the bike, flipped the lever that manually locks the rear wheel, and then just walked away.
I sat at a nearby bench and watched people trying to figure out if I was abandoning it, or if they should steal it, or what was going on. As I boarded the train at least three people with confused looks were staring at me and then looking at the bicycle I just parked in the middle of the sidewalk.
Now usually on the train this homeless cuddle bunny stares at me, but never makes eye contact. He always carries a brochure or bus schedule, and pretends to study it intently when I look his way, even though I’m not convinced he can read.
But tonight he was so surprised to see me without a bicycle he looked right at me and said, “Where’s your bike?”. I was so shocked that he spoke to me, I really didn’t know what to say.
I could tell him that I was using a bike share program, but then I’d have to explain it. If I told him I just grab any bicycle I find, ride it around, and then simply leave it on the sidewalk, without getting into trouble, he’d think I was crazy.