Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Terms of Endearment

Real Change is one of those places where you can always learn something new about yourself, if you're into that sort of thing.

Take Monday. I hadn't been in for 10 minutes when my phone rang. It was Rachael at the front desk. There were about a half dozen vendors hanging out getting their papers and a schizophrenic guy I'd seen around the office was outside shouting and banging on the window.

Rachael said things were under control, but that he kept popping in and out and she could use me as back up. I was editing the Street News Service newsfeed, and had promised that to Lisa in Scotland within the hour, so I grabbed my laptop and took a chair behind the door.

One of the great things about being ADHD is that you can read and write while a crazy guy bangs on the window behind you. It actually sort of helps.

I was summarizing an article on homeless hate crime legislation in Maryland when the door flew open and our friend made a beeline for the back.

"Dude!," I shouted, laying the laptop aside, "Where you goin'?"

The Dude thing confused him just enough long for me to catch up.

It's possible to move someone along without touching them by just sort of walking into their space with your arms out. It helps to be 6'2.

And that's pretty much where things were at when I said, "Hon, you need to go."

First he looked amazed. Then furious. "Hon! Hon! Shove it up your ass! I oughta take a gun and then we'll see about this place ..."

But by then he was on the other side of the door. I'd pushed it shut, and he was shouting through the glass. Rachael was already doing the 911 thing. Within two minutes we saw him with his hands on the hood of a police cruiser across the street.

You can be crazy as you want at Real Change and the worst thing that'll happen is you'll get shooed out the door. But start talking about a gun, and things get more serious.

We had him trespassed and declined to file charges.

After it was over, I had to ask, "Hon! Where the fuck did that come from?" Here was this skinny, bald, 40-something apoplectic crazy guy, and I'm calling him hon? What was that about?

This wasn't hard. I was responding as I would to my 3-year-olds. I actually think of them sometimes as being my little drunken schizophrenic dwarfs, unrolling the toilet paper and pulling it around the house. Smearing food coloring around on the kitchen floor. Decorating the walls with handfuls of peanut butter.

You don't get mad. You just deal. And you love them.

So here's this poor crazy bastard. Raging around for no reason that we could tell or that he could control. And without thinking about it, I slipped into daddy mode.

And the word dropped out of my mouth. And we both looked at it and wondered.

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