On the weekends, a van drives around to the parks in DC and serves warm meals to homeless people. Yesterday when I was out for a walk, I passed a group of people ladling out soup just as the line finished. I didn’t stop to ask for confirmation, but I’m pretty sure that the woman with the ladle was starting to dish me up a bowl until she gave me a full once-over.
And I’m pretty sure the only reason she decided I wasn’t homeless was because my fleece had a NorthFace logo.
It was a smack-my-head moment, when I realized I had just been assessed as homeless. In my defense: It was FREEZING out so I was wearing two pairs of pants and two hoodies. And I had a ski hat pulled down to my eyebrows. And I was wearing an old, stained backpack that smelled like wet sneakers. (Don’t ask.) And I hadn’t showered after yoga, so I probably didn’t smell exactly like a rose.
But really? My eyes were focused, I wasn’t talking to myself, and I was moving at a pretty quick clip. C’mon!
This case of mistaken identity forced me to realize four things:
- I can totally relate to celebrities who get unflattering photos snapped when they run to 7-Eleven for a soda.
- I now feel better about the time I kept trying to hand my left-overs to people who were not actually homeless.
- Alan is a saint for never saying, “You’re going to leave the house in that?”
- I’m now the second member of my family to be mistaken for homeless.
Yes – you heard correctly. I’m not even the first person in my family to have this happen.
My dad and I share the compulsion of walking (and tracking) a set number of miles. He targets 100 miles per month. I shoot for 25 miles per week. Since (as I mentioned), we’re somewhat compulsive about it, we often find that we’re walking in less than ideal weather. In DC, that’s still pretty mild, but in Michigan – where my parents live – it can be sub-zero and hailing and he’ll still head out to hit his mileage.
Another thing you need to know for this story to make sense: my dad is an ardent environmentalist. As a result, instead of outfitting himself with a snowmobile suit to make walking more comfortable when the weather turns, he simply layers on old clothes to give himself many layers. Also, he often picks up trash as he walks. And he has a full beard, which I suppose could be interpreted as not having access to a razor.
My parents live in a small town, and since my dad taught there for many decades, almost everyone in town knows him. I won’t say he’s a celebrity, but he’s definitely a character. (Pause for a moment and think about it: which would you rather be? My vote goes to character.) People usually just honk and wave when they see him scrambling down a ditch to grab an errant soda can – nothing to see here folks.
In recent years, however, the town’s population has grown, so not everyone is a former student who immediately recognizes him. So it was that on a particularly cold day, his route took him down the alley behind the town’s main grocery store. As he passed the dumpsters, an employee dragging out a sack of garbage spotted him and called out, “Well now! Today’s your lucky day!”
My dad, thinking she was just being friendly, hollered back, “Really? And why’s that?”
Her answer? “This bag has a whole slew of pastries in it that are practically untouched!”
Yes. She. Did.
I have no idea how he responded, because I was laughing too hard by this point in the story. But if I had to wager a guess, I’m thinking my parents enjoyed a windfall of donuts that week. Waste not, want not, after all!