Head Like A Watermelon

Annoying is a good word to describe people who aren’t intentionally (or obviously) harmful, but also are nowhere near helpful. A recent motto is – “If you can’t/won’t help, get out of the way”, which I apply mostly to myself, but somewhat to others. Living in a place where there’s little that an individual can do to help, I spend a lot of time getting out of the way, and I often wish that others would do the same. If they don’t they are basically annoying.

Right now I am sitting in my office on the main floor of thisCastle. I hear three people talking. They are sitting on the sidewalk in the alcove formed by the eccentric walls of the building. It isn’t a sheltered spot, but it is a gathering place for small groups of people whose lives unfold on the streets of the Downtown Eastside. Sometimes prostitutes have cackling, crackling and spackling parties out there, laughing, smoking crack and putting their makeup on together, and then checking themselves out in the windows and side mirrors of the cars parked on the street.

Although the three people are on the far side of the wall that separates me from the sidewalk, not only can I hear their slightly slurred conversation (clear, but in some incomprehensible language), I can also smell slightly acrid smoke, very likely crack, though maybe smack. I am getting a slight headache from it.

Some of the people down here behave like chickens, digging in the cracks between the buildings and the sidewalk, scratching at the scrubby grass between the sidewalk and the road. Pecking and squawking at each other. Looking for crack in the cracks. Seeking their bits of heaven hidden in the horror of Hell.

Life is cheap down here, in word and deed. I have heard people screaming at one another, things like “I’m going to beat you to death tonight” (enhanced by the accompanying snarling and snapping pit bulls), and I have seen a couple fight and break up and makeup seven times in the time it takes to cross a street. There were shouts and the girl walked away from the boy, and he chased her down and grabbed her and shook her a little, and they made up with kisses and hugs, and then there were shouts, and he walked away from her, and she chased him down, and turned him around and slapped him, and this, or a close variation of this, kept on happening, until one of them headed north across Hastings, and the other headed east along Hastings. The rift appeared to be permanent, and one or the other of them left their hoodie in the middle of Jackson Avenue. It stayed there until the street cleaners took it away.

When they aren’t squabbling, the people in the street may look out for one another, but they do not take care of themselves. The population is not only transient, but any individual is a bit like the expendable crew members in SF shows on television: no matter what their function is you know that they are not going to make it to the end of the show. It is rare to see someone on these streets for more than a year.

I have lived in thisCastle almost three years now, and I have spent a lot of time getting out of the way because I know there are limits as to what I can do to help. I try to be helpful, but I know that the limits of my helpfulness are quickly reached, and I do not want to create more problems than I solve. I do not want to be annoying in my own view of myself.

Annoying is the word that my friend AnnaMaryse (http://annamaryse.livejournal.com/ – many of her posts are friends locked so if you go there you might not be able to see the most interesting ones) uses to describe her manager at work (if I had to work with someone like that I might use the stronger term, irritating, but she is not mine and I am trying not to be irritated by other people anyway), who is not intentionally harmful, but is grossly unhelpful and obstructive.

The manager sounds difficult. She takes sick time off to get wasted popping pills and drinking. She phones the office when she’s off sick and wastes peoples’ time. She sits at her desk and wastes peoples’ time. She talks on the phone and wastes her own time. She doesn’t need to get wasted to be a waste.

When AnnaMaryse went for the job interview, WastedWoman was appallingly rude. The interview was in a cottage on the grounds of a large estate. Arriving right on time, AnnaMaryse approached the open door and overheard WastedWoman talking on the phone about her in a snide and disparaging way. This was before they had even met. It is testament to AnnaMaryse’s excellent interpersonal skills that she is able to get along with this person. I would never have been able to behave as though I hadn’t heard her, and I would have been miserable working there.

When I was 15 years old, my friends and I took turns baby-sitting for Tom and Peggy, a young-ish couple who had two children, 7 and 3.

Tom was a staid, responsible 30 year old who had a good job and owned his house, and Peggy was a wild, irresponsible 22 year old, who was sometimes at home with the kids, but spent far more time hanging out with 15 year olds and/or doing drugs and/or hitch-hiking to Southern California and/or acting in porn films.

Peggy and the friends were sitting around talking about drugs one day, and Peggy was singing their praises with comments like “Drugs open up so many doors” and “Drugs solve peoples’ problems”. I said something like “Drugs don’t always solve problems for people.” and Peggy snapped back “If drugs don’t help you, then you have a head like a watermelon on your shoulders.”

I have often thought of this cut of the 15 year old me, and have often thought of using it on someone, but have never found the right time or energy. I may have found it at last: it sounds to me like AnnaMaryse’s boss, WastedWoman, is one of those people who isn’t helped by drugs.

~ by thiscassandra on Saturday 20 January 2007.

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