Friday. Drinks after dinner last night as I mentioned with ten or so souls working on the new ‘mission critical’ (add any old business school inspired acronym) projects, many of them new employees, all of them up and running and on a roll. Three Guinness and I was done, done at eight in the evening wondering if my bus still ran on the same schedule, walking then to my stop in front of the twenty-four hour news store and BART entrance.
There are disadvantages to wearing a white broad brimmed hat that are similar to the disadvantages of carrying an almost breadbox size camera over my shoulder. They attract attention.
There was a fellow: good sized, over six feet, maniacal eyes, conversing with the world in a very loud voice, exploding his arms up into the air for emphasis, marching up and down the sidewalk. He wasn't looking at me but I'd run into him recently and he'd noticed me then. Hmmm. Time for the bus, where's the bus?
I'd been waiting at the same stop just after work on Wednesday when he'd walked over to stand beside me: saying nothing, not looking, just standing, you know, close. There were plenty of people around and I wasn't getting danger vibes, but I was getting vibes this guy was wound up way too tight and handling it, you understand, but, you know, for how long? Doesn't matter if there are plenty of people around, if the idea struck he could do something. The bus came and I got on.
So there he was again this evening, walking up and down the sidewalk, the few people around standing outside the all night newspaper store ignoring him. This was, after all, downtown Oakland and it was getting dark.
So, naturally, he comes over, smiling, not uttering a word, standing in front of me and going through his jacket pockets finally finding an almost empty plastic water bottle. He hands me the water bottle. I take the bottle. I admit I am curious how this is going to turn out. He asks me if I could hold it for him until he returns from just around the corner. I said sure and watched him disappear down the street. Still no bus.
He returned in what must have been five minutes, smiled, accepted the water bottle back and then held out his hand and dropped two dimes and a penny into my palm. His eyes said you're supposed to be doing this for me and I am doing this for you, ain't life remarkable? Hmmm. Time for the bus, where's the bus?
We talk. I'm guessing meth or crack. He's bright and lit up like a rocket, he's big and he's crazy and he's rambling and the vibe, although teetering at the edge, is still OK. Time, though, for the bus.
He starts talking about cigarettes, he has the stub end of a cigarette he's obviously found on the street that he's trying to light and I finally ask him, after turning over my options, if he could use some money for cigarettes. He smiles at my apparent inspiration and says “yes”. I give him five bucks. He gives me a hug and goes into an over the top gratitude routine ending with him getting down and saying he wants to kiss my feet. This is all being done like a couple of actors running through a script. Crazy, yes, but again, no really negative vibes. He'll be right back, he says, he has to go around the corner for a minute. I'm no longer thinking about the bus. Fuck the bus. The vibe, whatever the vibe, is telling me this thing is maybe getting out of hand.
I walk down to the cab stand and take a cab home. The busses no longer run on their six o'clock schedule after eight. Either that or this one didn't come. Next time I'll take a cab first off. He did say he'd see me again (hence the comment about the white hat and camera making you stand out - hard to miss, not hard to remember even on crack) and I'll have this Monday to look forward to, I guess.