You hear all kinds of personal stories around the Day Center, too many to get into this blog.
You hear how someone used to be an English teacher or a loan officer, and you believe them without having to check their stories. Though the former teacher has serious issues with alcohol, she selects the best books from the free shelves. The former banker probably always had his sunny disposition and collection of Hawaiian shirts, and it wouldn't take him long to figure out he was way too smart for the job.
When you hear one of our stalwart homeless volunteers spent time in prison for killing his best friend, you see his sadness and his resignation a little differently. There are other stories like his that I'm not going to tell, even in generalities, because the person may have moved back into grace but his sins brand him forever.
Other stories might strain credulity, but they can be checked out. No, the big guy with bad knees leaning against the shopping cart did not ever play for the Denver Broncos unless he changed his name. Yes, the frail young woman who claims she used to model in Paris and appear in the movies indeed has an IMDB bio, and one of our volunteers has a video featuring her.
And then there are the tales that are far out and can't be verified, and there's no reason to try.
For example, I doubt one of our former guests has actually seen NASA's plans for the defense of Neptune.
Although he's capable of this, it's unlikely my favorite drug addict was ever six months away from becoming a North Carolina state trooper before he found himself in a standoff with 65 Ohio cops.
When a guest says she's on the run from the mob for testifying against them in a child pornography trial, it's natural to file that one in the loony bin.
And when she says she's afraid they've located her and she doesn't know what to do, you think about suggesting she get her medication adjusted.
And if she says, you don't believe me, do you?, you find some way to indicate support without signing up for the paranoia.
And then Tony calls the Day Center from New York.
We don't get a lot of calls from Tonys in New York.
Tony asks the director if she knows — let's say — Stacy.
The director says yes.
Tony says, so she's there?
The director stops. This is supposed to be a safe place for our guests. No, she says, I said I know somebody by that name.
So she's there, right?
No, I haven't seen her for a while.
But you said she was there. How long ago? Two, three days?
He keeps drilling. Not like the usual caller who just wants to leave a message or hangs up. He keeps trying to pin the director down.
For the record, I don't know this Stacy. I've never met anyone by that name, and I know a lot of people here.
But I can swear to one thing. If she'd told me this story, I wouldn't have believed her.
Not for a minute.