I recently ended a year-long employment with a grocery store in the ghetto of Albany, New York. So my hands (and tongue) are no longer tied by obligation to keep my seven-dollar-an-hour job.
And I have something to say.
Dear Homeless Bums, Sexual Predators, and Asylum Escapees of the Greater Albany Area:
Leave me the hell alone.
Now, I will give you this: you will make great characters for my books, as I try to tell myself whenever your slurred comments make me want to jump across the moving grocery belt and slap you with the large frozen halibut you just purchased.
But please, spare me your bullshit.
Spare me your smells, that certain combination of stale cigarettes, old beer, urine, dirt and unwashed body. They flash me back and I don't like it. Spare me your drug-addled rants about the price of bacon-- spare me your heated diatribes over the quality of American brown bread vs. German. Wipe your nose and stop trying to steal the M&Ms. I can see you. And even if I couldn't, you smell worse than 99% of the other hobos in here. Like skunks, your stench precedes you, and refuses to wane even after you are gone.
And the abuse doesn't end at work; you must follow me home too. Spare me your attempts to break into my house on a bi-monthly basis, searching for empty cans. Do you want to buy me all that beer? Then fine, take the cans. If not, move it along. Next time I'm calling the cops. I don't care that the people who lived here before me let you in at your own leisure. You're not welcome.
I understand that this may seem harsh. On paper, people will laugh at your antics. But in real life, you are scary. You are dangerous. You are like a wild animal: no matter how "cute" and "cuddly" you might look when you are chatting up my roommate on the way to her car, calling her "ma'am" and all this other bullshit, or trying to inform us that you run a business that collects recyclables: you are dangerous, can't be trusted, and may bite at any time.
You run a business? Then why are you wearing the same shirt you were wearing two weeks ago when you should up pounding on my door? There is already a business for can recycling. It's called the Bottle Return Area of your Friendly Neighborhood Price Chopper.
Give me a freaking break.
But especially and most importantly, spare me your unwanted and unsolicited sexual attentions.
This one's for you, Lazy-eyed, Mentally-Ill Truck Driver, for all those times you stalked me at the music store I used to hang out at until the male staff members started taking turns escorting me out the back door lest you rape me in the parking lot.
And you, Helmet Guy, as you give me possessed-looking full-body stares after I let you use coupons for all eight of your boxes of Cheerios at Price Chopper. You are insane; it's obvious that you, your wife and two children did not arrive here on a motorcycle, yet you stand holding the helmet under your arm with a manic look on your face as though you did.
And you, Butterscotch Pudding Man, for the special way you use your FoodStamp card to purchase copious amounts of said dessert while you make lame and scary sexual innuendos and inform me (or are you speaking to my boobs? I can't tell)that you are going to drive to California because all the girls there are prettier than the ones here--except for me, of course.
The list goes on and on, but the point is the same.
I will not join you in your life of can-grubbing and drunken and showerless forays into Price Chopper to buy more Natty Ice. Please stop staring at me like you would like to take me home to your cardboard box or padded cell and do dirty, horror-movie-esque things to me.
I'm not going anywhere with you, and certainly not to California.
Those who are unfamiliar with the realities of your kind are likely to misunderstand. There's a public image, definitely, of you people. That you get a bad rap. That you have just "fallen on hard times". That you are really very nice people and it's not your fault that your life has fallen apart like this.
They obviously have never spent any amount of time working face-to-face with you. They have not witnessed you buying only twinkies and cupcakes with your FoodStamp card and using your bottle returns to buy more beer. You're not that innocent, and I'm not sympathetic.
I challenge anyone who disagrees to go apply for my old job. Then we can talk.
People like you are the reason I carry pepper spray. The reason I'm terrified to walk three blocks at night in Albany and the reason I wear rings on my left hand, even though I don't believe in marriage. The reason I approach most strangers, upon meeting, with wary aloofness. I don't know when or from where the next one of your kind will approach. You might be an old man, you might be a fifteen year old boy who shows bizarre flares of temper at random times, reminiscent of a psychopathic episode.
It doesn't matter. You're all the same, and you all keep on coming.
So next time I let you buy your cheerios with coupons or patiently wait to ring you out until you finish your rant because it's my job, do me a favor and spare me the weird, awkward sexual advances.
I'm sure there's a nice girl waiting in her own ramshackle cardboard box for you. Well, probably not. But good luck finding her.
And even if you don't, don't come back looking for me.