1. Sleeping with your clothes on (like, you have a choice!) You never know when somebody’s gonna wake you up and tell you to move. Even worse, you can get your clothes and shoes stolen by another homeless person.
2, Sleeping with your contact lenses on. Several times I’ve been rudely awakened by the police or property owner who want me to bounce. I need to be able to see who they are right away in case it’s just someone coming to rob me. Death of the homeless on the street is a common occurrence. People get shot and stabbed routinely and a lot of it doesn’t get reported because, well, society considers the homeless as being unimportant, insignificant pests.
3. Mastering the art of the one minute bath. This is accomplished in public restrooms like supermarkets, gas stations and department stores. Of course, if you’re on candid camera, you might have just 10 seconds to wash it and beat it.
4. Wearing the same clothes two or more weeks in a row. That’s easy to get used to. All you have to do is not change your clothes. It’s really simple when you’re starving and, therefore, lack the strength to change anyway. You learn to deal with the ornery smell and try to stay away from people because they’ll hold their noses and cross the street which in itself is embarrassing. Yeah, some of us do walk around with track marks, shitty pants and pissed on shoes, but what can we do? We’re waiting for the construction of free public showers nationwide. Until then deal with the funk.
5. Eating food right out of the can. The can opener is your best friend. Eating vegetable soup, green beans, chili or whatever right out of the can is more than a way of survival, it’s a fashion statement. Think about it. People walk around with saggy, low hanging pants because it’s cool; it’s the style. The style, of course, comes from prisoners who wear their pants like that which means they’re always on and opened for business, so to speak. And since whatever’s subservient becomes the norm, eating out of a can will be, too.
6. Learning to do with less: less items of clothing, less money, less food, less protection, less friends, less encouragement, less will to survive. Here in Seattle the I-5 overpass is a homeless person’s best friend. One simple leap off and his troubles are over.
Being close to death changes a man’s perspective. You learn to appreciate life. I was pushing my bike up a steep incline on the NY highway years ago. I was so dehydrated I felt like Chris McCandless in Alaska. When I stopped to gave over a promontory, I wanted to take a flying leap to the valley below. The will to survive kicked in and I was able to drag myself to a store about a mile away. I was lucky.
There is a constant war going on in my head. It’s between emotion and logic, between the limbic system and the pre-fontal cortex. It sucks because I hope logic will win 100% of the time but it doesn’t. Every so often emotions get the best of me and I turn to shit. I hate it.