Ron came in early this morning. Often, he sits in the vestibule watching the proceedings and aiming silent commentary from his repertoire of grimaces. He may not enter the Day Center at all, even for a cup of coffee.
Today, he came in for his mail. All he had was his statement from US Bank. He opened it and showed me his balance: $2.52.
Julia checked her mail, too. She was hoping her medications had arrived because she'd been going without for eight days and said she'd spent the night in the ER as a result. She was delighted to sign for the fat envelope from Ohio.
Joyce came in near the end of our busiest day all year—about number 111. She needed some antiseptic lotion and something she could use as a bandage.
She showed me her knee where the frostbite wound from last winter still hasn't healed, a multicolored, hand-sized scab that's cracked and raw. We were out of ointments and only had regular band-aids, so I offered her rubbing alcohol, hand lotion and a paper towel. Then she can show it to the doctors who come in tomorrow.
Special K walked in with a good quality boarder/bike helmet, the style with an integrated liner. None of folks I know here who ride bikes wear a helmet. It's just one more thing to keep track of. Special K is a renowned dumpster diver, so I asked him where he found it.
He said he'd bought it at the pawn shop, then showed me the sticker still on the helmet with the date it was pawned and the name of the guy who pawned it. "I know that guy!" he said. "It's my girl friend's brother."
His girl friend saw the helmet and said it was hers. They looked at the date on the sticker—two days before her birthday—and realized the brother had pawned her helmet to buy her a birthday present.
Patrick, another regular, was clipping off his beard in the vestibule during this and chimed in with another story about Special K and the pawn shop. Patrick's distinctive backpack had been stolen. Special K showed up at the Day Center with it one day.
"Hey, that's my backpack!"
Special K stripped it off immediately and said, "It's yours but I didn't take it," and gave his account of finding it at the pawn shop.
Patrick said, "That's an interesting story. Do you have a receipt?"
Special K is not an individual who carries paperwork of any kind.
"Okay, then you're going with me to the pawn shop right now to see if it's true. If not, we've still got some business." Patrick puffed himself up in front of Special K. "And now we love each other."
Then they both laughed and hugged.
Special K had one more thing to show us. A black plastic case he'd found in an alley.
"I thought at first it might be a gun," he said, "and I can't have a gun..."
Professional dog grooming clippers with an extra-long cord.
"Try 'em. They're a lot better than those hair clippers, and they have a reeeal nice vibration."
Patrick was skeptical, but Special K is one of those people who have so little to lose they never seem to lie, so he gave them a shot.
Ten minutes later, he returned them with a big grin on his face.
"Really sweet," he said. "Best haircut I ever had."