A few months ago, my wife and I were on our way to a party her company was hosting at a downtown club. We had had dinner and had some time to kill so we stopped for a pint at Bull McCabe’s on Red River. We sat at a rickety table on the porch, enjoying the springtime weather and watched people walk up and down the street, drifting from club to club.
The homeless shelter is right around the corner so along with music lovers, there tends to be an abundance of homeless people mingling about the area, often indistinguishable from the music fans until they ask for a handout.
One guy, probably in his mid-thirties, came shuffling onto the porch. He wore a few extra sweaters under a grimy red coat out of which a white cable grew like a vine that terminated in his ears. I wondered if he actually had an ipod under there somewhere.
“Hey,” he said, walking up to our table. “You got any cash?”
My wife and I shook our heads. “Sorry, no.”
He stared at our beers and looked back at us. “What about them?”
I shrugged. “No cash.”
“Can you charge me a beer then?”
“Aw, come on, man, you can just get me a beer. I won’t bother you. You can afford another one.”
I didn’t say, yes, I could afford more, and had he asked, I might have bought him a burger, but he just stared at us, clearly annoyed, small muscles ticking beneath his face. “What do you do for a living?” he asked, his voice challenging, likely trying to prove to us that we made enough to buy him a beer.
“I’m a teacher,” I said.
His body language changed with that last word. He relaxed, making me realize for the first time just how wound up and intense he was under all those used-up old clothes. He took a polite step back. “Aw, man, I’m sorry. I won’t bother you. You have a good night. You’re good people.”
He backed out of the bar and smiled at us again as he shuffled down the street, leaving us to wonder what teacher he had had that made such an impression on him that he refused to bother a teacher. I also wondered what would have happened had I been an investment banker.