I stopped in front of the metal gate that is the entrance to the garage and put the boxes down. I was fumbling around for the remote control that opens the gate to the parking garage. My head was down. I was unshaven and my grunge work uniform of old shorts and straight out of the dryer wrinkled shirt, wasn't going to inspire any fashion trends.
As I was searching for the remote I heard a man say, "Here you go." I half looked up and a gentleman in a very crisp suit, neat haircut and Clark Kent glasses was handing me a dollar. I was so completely out of it I wasn't sure what was happening. He put it in my shirt pocket and said, "Take care of yourself" as he smiled and walked away.
Oh my God! He thinks I'm a homeless guy carrying my cardboard boxes around.
There are a lot of homeless people in Downtown L.A. and there's a bench just a few feet from the store, on the way to the parking garage, and there's usually the same homeless guy there everyday. I see him when I'm taking out the trash, or when I'm heading to the store from the garage.
Sometimes we nod at each other, or say "hi." He never asks for money and the few times he's tried to say something beyond a "hello" it doesn't make much sense. Actually, it feels that he's talking more to the air than to me or anyone in particular.
When "Clark Kent" walked away and I was contemplating what just happened, I looked over at the bench. I hadn't noticed it or the man who's usually on it earlier that morning.
I have spent the last two days redoing the store. Top to bottom. Over 60 new inventory pieces came in and not only was I making room for them...there was the unpacking, the cleaning, moving, assembling and all other kinds of non-glamorous grunt work that goes with a re-do. I love it. It's fulfilling to see something take shape and the control freak in me wouldn't have it any other way, but on those sweaty/messy days where I am super focused--I rarely notice anything beyond the tasks I have laid out for myself.
I made numerous trips to the dumpster in the past few days and I saw nothing but the boxes/trash I was carrying. All I could think about was how quickly I could get back to the store and continue to work.
At this moment, I looked for The Bench Man. He was there and we was looking right at me. He and the bench were no more than 8-10feet away from me. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say to him, or if I had anything to say. I took the dollar out of my pocket, walked over and handed it to him. He smiled and said, "Thanks."
I went back to pick up my boxes and heard, "Welcome to the street, man."
I turned around and he was getting up. He looked at me with a half smile, picked up his tattered bag, and mumbled, "It's weird, right?" as he walked away.
It was weird.
So much seemed to happen in a minute. Or at least so many thoughts went through my head in that short amount of time and yet I couldn't form any words to say what I thought I was feeling, or what I felt I wanted to convey. Nothing. It's as if the past couple of days of physical labor had left me without the ability to use language.
My reaction was physical and emotional, yet no words.
I finished throwing out the boxes and went back to wrap up the day's work and get the store ready for it's fresh start tomorrow.
Maybe "Clark Kent" will come in. If I'm there, I'll make sure he gets his dollar back.