New York is a great city.
Tom would say, “What’s not to love: the subway runs twenty-four hours, you can drink water straight from the tap and buy some of the world’s best bagels for less than a dollar.”
Though when I first moved here, Tom also told me, “It’s only a matter of time before you see a bum take a crap on the subway.”
Three years later, I saw a bum take a crap on the subway.
How fitting to share this moment with Tom: we had just entered the downtown 1 station at 50th St. and were walking towards the back of the platform when I noticed an old homeless black man holding onto a rickety walker. He seemed to be scooting himself backwards between a spot against the wall, between a trashcan and the clunky wooden benches (that I never have nor will EVER sit on). His was dribbling at the mouth and had crusty, weak hands, one on the walker and the other holding his soiled track pants.
We walked and I stared, first feeling sad and then, watching something drop from between the man’s legs, confused.
It dawned on me the same time the stench hit and I, unthinking, opened my mouth in shock.
“Keep walking, don’t look,” Tom said in a low voice, grabbing my elbow and moving me forward, far away from the smell which seemed now to waft after us, “Keep walking, go go go go go”
“That man…” I didn’t know what I wanted to do – help? How? Give the man a Kleenex? Report him?
“Don’t look at people like that,” Tom said, “You never stare at a bum. Especially not when they’re doing something crazy.”
“He just pooed! On the platform!”
“Yeah because he’s crazy! If he sees you staring at him, he might do something.”
“Like what, throw his poo at me?”
Tom kept on walking, not stopping until we were at the end of the platform. “He might. He might come after you with his shit. You just never know.”
From Tom’s measured reaction, it’s clear he’s seen his fair share of crazy bums pooping. But I know what you’re thinking: one bum-pooping story on Thursday is enough for the week (or for life), so I’ll stop here and move on to Tom’s theory of bums.
“There are three types,” Tom says. He categorizes them thus:
- Down-On-Their-Luck Bums: these bums have lost their job, have bad debt or broken relationships. Sometimes all of the above. They’re mostly clean, know to find meals and a bed at shelters. A lucky few eventually get off the streets or turn into either or both types listed below.
- Drug Bums: the ones that’ll turn down free food and instead offer a blowjob if you give them bus money, aka funds for crack/meth/heroine.
- Crazy Bums: Schizos, paranoids, and PTSD bums. These are usually, sadly, the pooping bums. They soil themselves for protection. Or they no longer know the difference.
Having learned this taxonomy I’m glad to be where I am. Unemployed but still a lucky Non-Bum, with a cozy apartment and Internet access.
But Tom disagrees, “You’re basically a Type One Bum.”
Anyway. Happy Thursday guys. I’m back to job-hunting.