I'm heading North by bus tonight for family matters, which brings to mind all the many, many bus rides I have taken in and to so many places for myself, and others.
It alsos bring to mind a story…
A few years ago, my bus pulled into Minneapolis around eight or so at night. I'd phoned Bripi for a ride, but it was going to be a while before they arrived.
I stepped outside, to do my usual thing and play the pennywhistle, but beat a hasty retreat. It wasn't yet snowy outside, but the temperature was probably in the lower thirties. It was cold!
I stood inside the porch, staring through the glass at my reflection and the dark night beyond. My mind was wandering, so I was startled when one of the other doors opened and a black guy, probably in his thirties, with a big, black winter parka came in. He turned, and contemplated his own reflection for a few moments, shuffling awkwardly.
Then he turned towards me.
"Do you have seven bucks?" And then he told me about being out of work, et cetera, and how the mission downtown charges seven bucks a night.
I usually do not hand money to the "homeless" or the homeless and declined to do so here. "God bless", the man said, and shook my hand.
And his fingers were cold! Being a pianist, I've always valued my fingers, and feeling his made me deeply uncomfortable. I like fingers to be warm. And happy. I gave him $5, which was all I was carrying, hoping he'd either go some place warm or buy gloves, preferrably both.
He thanked me and left. But now I was committed. I watched him walk across the street and talk with another figure by the street sign. Together, they crossed back towards the depot and talked some more, and then began moving off into the distance.
I kept my eye on them and, when they had gone far enough, began following them, calling my ride as I did so. When Bripi showed up, I climbed into the car. "Trail those people", I said. Used to my eccentricities she loitered the car for a while, and then trolled after them.
The pair seemed unaware of all this as they crossed a bridge, entered a poorer section of town, and then an apartment building.
I had been lied to!
Alas, the door on the building was locked, so I was unable to retrieve my money.
Actually, that was probably for the best.
The experience, and others like it, have deepened my mistrust of those asking me for money. And I think about this when I travel and find myself asking for others' help. They too must have had such experiences. How does one project legitimacy? Once an interaction is underway, or help has been given, how does one convey that it isn't in vain?