I've missed reporting on a few of the Day Center's more mundane events, as well as our guests' extracurricular activities.
Paco, for instance. Paco of the incompleted kidney donation. Last week he made the Friends & Family section of the paper under his legal name for harassing a 14-year-old and taking someone's car keys. Kelvin, another of our regulars, was picked up "on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance."
In Kelvin's case, this vague charge not only covered the wide variety of potential controlled substances he might be carrying, but also their sometimes puzzling origin. By Wednesday, he was out of custody and back at the Day Center, so I asked him what he had that'd produced the charge.
Mushrooms. He was surprised when the police stopped him and found the mushrooms in his pocket.
I told him, as a disinterested observer, his story lacked a certain amount of credibility.
Oh, he said, I don't deny I had them in my hand. I just don't remember putting them in my pocket.
His memory on other matters can be surprising, though. The other day I heard him tell another guest, correctly, that I've been married for 37 years.
William is one of those homeless men you wouldn't give a second look if you saw him in a library or college classroom. But with a bit more contact, it becomes clear he has some trouble dealing with the world straight on.
I have a pretty simple job at the Day Center running the men's and women's showers — signing people in, calling them for their turns and enforcing as necessary something resembling the posted 10-minute limit for a shower. Bigger picture, I have to get everyone through before it's time to close while preserve what decorum is possible with a men's shower that opens directly onto the only passage through the building.
Each time William comes in for a shower, he writes his name on the sheet and tries to put down the time he arrived. I explain the sheet is just to keep people in order. I will write down a time when he's called and goes into the shower, so I know how long he's taking.
He absorbs the instruction slowly. Then, when it's his turn, he takes a 30-minute shower.
The first time this happened, I warned him a few times to speed it up, but perhaps you can appreciate the difficulty of dealing with naked, soapy men who don't take direction well.
The second time, the same confusion at the sign-in and the same ineffectual warnings on my part resulted in another 30 minute shower. This time he came out with a hang-dog look and seemed surprised when I told him how long he'd been in there (even though I'd pointedly given him a 20-minute warning). To reinforce why I was being so stern, I explained how we only had limited time for everyone to shower and it wasn't fair to others if he took so long. He nodded, so I hoped it got through.
Last week, when again he tried to write down the time he signed in, I realized I had to try something different. I asked if it would help him stay on schedule if I gave him a 10-minute warning. After all, there's no clock in the shower room and these guys aren't wearing watches. He agreed.
But then I got caught up listening to Kelvin talk about how he could see why they didn't want to legalize mushrooms because they were so powerful he could only do half an ounce every five days and about the time he took 25 hits of acid at one time and I finally noticed William had been in there 20 minutes without his 10-minute prompt.
So William got another 30-minute shower.
Next week, though, we're doing to do 20 minutes. I just haven't figured out how.