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In all my life I have only met one homeless person who made me, using his own words, want a piece of that “hobo magic.” After September 11th, 2001, I had already ruled any places, other than school, the shopping plaza, or home, to be dangerous. In my eleven year old mind, the terrorists were Russian spies ala Boris and Natasha who weren’t after the fall of America, but more personally the fall of New York elementary students. I’m still not really sure how I got to that Red Scare-esque mentality, but I do know that I should have paid more attention to the news at the time.
On a Sunday afternoon, a week after the horrid events, I was walking past my neighborhood’s shopping center about to spend my “big bucks” (about five dollars) at the Dollar Store to try and ease the depression I had been feeling lately. I passed by the usuals – a young mother, an alcoholic old man, and a stubborn child dragging her parents along the walk-way to the nearest toy store – to get to my store of choice. I was greeted not by the nice shop-keeper but a sloppily written sign toting “Store closed indefinitely.” I huffed a sigh and kicked a stone forcefully to the left of me without looking. And, as if out of a scene from a movie, I heard a raspy voice call out to me:
“Watch where you kick that, boy!”
I was so startled by the mysterious figure that I didn’t even get fazed by the fact that he called me by the wrong gender.
“S-sorry.” I stuttered, but that wasn’t going to work with my new friend.
He went on for almost three hours giving me the rundown on life and its complexities. I won’t lie and say that I understood everything, but I will say that his lecture was far from boring. In my few hours with him I was able to find out many things like the meaning of life, why the sky is blue, how the government got in contact with aliens, and who really killed JFK (classified information – so, please don’t ask.)
As the sun set I was left with a sensation of enlightenment; I was definitely the smartest kid in the world. The Dollar Store Dude, as I affectionately named him, was the pure, drugged-out messiah who showed me the world in a wonderful and more fascinating new view. My time with him enabled me to shed loose the miserable aura I had begun to wear since the September 11th attacks. I looked around me as DSD talked about the New World Order and I kept feeling a constant urge to stop the passer-byers in their tracks and engage them in all that Dude had to say. I could feel the sadness and fears perching on all of their shoulders; the same sadness and fears that had engulfed me mere hours ago. I wanted to make them see that there’s still a wondrous – somewhat crazy, but still wondrous – world out there and that moping wouldn’t heal their hearts in any way. But I knew they wouldn’t listen. They were hurt and the last thing they needed was a chubby little girl and a grown man with a messy beard telling them what could easily be passed off as baseless conjecture, if not just rubbish.
“Doesn’t it annoy you how they never pay attention?” I asked him.
He never responded, but the look he gave me told me everything I needed to know.
‘Don’t judge them, boy. Just because we’re friggin’ awesome doesn’t mean that they’re not important, too, ya know? Everybody has their stories and who are we to force them to listen to our own?’
Before it got too dark I parted ways for the first and last time with the mysterious Dude. I rushed home to tell my parents about the new buddy/mentor I’d made. I guess it goes without saying, but I wasn’t allowed to go to the Dollar Store alone for a year after that, though I still don’t regret anything. The Dollar Store Dude gave me more than a warped view of the world that day; he gave me a means of losing myself when the days become too bleak to handle.
Geez, I can only hope that the CIA hasn’t caught up to him yet.