I live in an area where the homeless are so pervasive that they become invisible. Sort of. They sort of blend into the landscape, become part of the urban ambience. There comes a point when idealism falls away and you no longer feel badly about refusing to fork over even the nineteen cents in coin jingling lightly in your jacket pocket. I remember once standing outside the Showbox, smoking a cigarette, talking to a homeless man whose face, quite literally, appeared to be decaying, and giving a grinning apology that I wouldn’t give him more than a couple bucks because I wanted another beer.
There are several ironic aspects that are not lost on me. Thankfully, I’m sober and cannot recall them all. Nonetheless, there is a certain cruelty in that sad tale, and I’m not really sure there’s a moral to the story.
However, an Associated Press report out of San Diego strikes me as a proper depiction of petty cruelty. Look, I can’t excuse or justify myself, but at least I wasn’t going out of my way to be a prig about it.
A community activist thinks a few couch potatoes, strategically placed on sidewalk benches in an upscale shopping district, will keep transients on their feet and on the move.
Esther Viti, who oversees the donation of public benches for a merchants’ association in La Jolla, sent an e-mail to 45 other activists last week asking them to sit in three-hour shifts, no bathroom breaks allowed.
“After all, you MUST OCCUPY THAT BENCH continually for three hours to prevent that homeless person from sitting on that bench,” the e-mail said.
Donors weren’t happy that transients were sleeping on benches they had provided for the public, Viti said.
The group previously tried installing benches with metal dividers that split the seats. Transients simply began sleeping upright, said Deborah Marengo, president of Promote La Jolla.
At least I was drunk at the time. I’m going to doubt Ms. Viti can say the same about this brilliant plan.
Look, if the problem is that the homeless are occupying benches intended for general use, all you’re doing by occupying the benches that the homeless would otherwise occupy is changing the scenery. What’s next? “No loitering … without a jacket and tie”?