I had an interesting encounter yesterday. The sequel was unpredictable.
We live in a condominium complex consisting of three buildings. Ours is the largest, an L-shaped three-story with fifty-two units, named Cornerstone at New Berlin’s Residences at City Center. The heated parking garage is below our building. We bought our unit ten years ago. We were the first owners to move into our building. I have a home office in the second bedroom adjoining the main bedroom. I spend time in my office when not working on-site with clients. The workload has been quite quiet during the last few months as I move into my retirement phase. Consequently, I am spending more time than usual in my office. My daily ritual includes tea at 10:00 am, collecting mail at the mailboxes in our lobby at 11:00 am. I almost never see other owners walking along the corridors. This place is like a morgue, noticeably quiet. I get up at 5:30 am and have breakfast after 6:00 am. I watch the local TV news at noon at which time I eat lunch. Dinner time is around 6:00 pm with Linda. I appreciate the routine.
In the spring, summer, and autumn months I go for daily walks. I have a regular 40-minute route. Very occasionally for a variation, I walk a different path that takes an hour. Yesterday with global warming causing extreme weather conditions, we had regular temperatures of 12 below zero, and wind chills of 30 below. I am indifferent if your metric is Fahrenheit or Celsius. Just understand it was bitterly cold. Our condominium heating unit never seemed to stop running.
Linda leaves for the office at 7:00 am and returns home at 5:30 pm. At around 1:30 pm yesterday I started to experience cabin fever. This occurs when you feel claustrophobia is setting in and you urgently need to get out to see people. I packed up my reading material and drove the 10 minutes to Brookfield Square Mall. I park at the back close to one of the many entrances. This entry is at the food court, laid out in a large circular arrangement with about fifteen food vendors. Your hunger can be satiated with any steaks, stir-fries, sandwiches, Italian, Chinese, or Mexican cuisine, and salads to name a few.
The food court features about a hundred tables, each with its allocation of chairs. I sat at a table where I could observe passing foot traffic. Piped music provides entertainment. With the bitter cold on this Wednesday afternoon, the mall was not busy. I ordered a chocolate drink and a small tasty cinnamon bun. Two years ago, I had a large kidney stone. Now removed, I require regular restroom visits. An hour later I had to act.
As I approached the men’s room, I noticed a white man ahead of me heading in that direction as well. He was in his sixties. He was shuffling his feet. I slowed my walk so as not to run ahead of him. I noticed that his shoes were several sizes too big for him. Had he walked normally he would have fallen out of his shoes? On closer inspection, I saw that his trousers were far too large. He did not have a belt and was hanging on to his pants for dear life so that they would not fall. His coat was tattered and worn. After we completed our call of nature, we returned to the food court. By this time, I saw that he had a very full scraggly beard, and an abundance of wild hair, all snow white. Neither had been cut in several years. I realized he was a homeless man.
I watched as this man approached the tables where people were eating. It was apparent that he was begging for money. The response was the same. A violent shaking of the head, and I could see each patron mouthing the word “no”. He circled the court until he approached me. I asked him what he needed. He requested money to get a bus ride back to Milwaukee, a 20-minute drive in light traffic, and cash for food. While we were in the men’s room, I noticed another gentleman with a uniform and insignia telling us that he was a bus driver. In talking to the homeless man, it occurred to me that he may be mentally challenged. His speech was slow and slurred, but certainly not drunk. He had not seen a dentist in many years. I do not normally carry much money. My wallet contained $53. I took the two 20s and one 10, and folded them so that the homeless man could not see what I handed him. He ambled off slowly. When he thought he was out of my eyesight, he looked at the cash and headed off to buy food. I was curious to see if he would return to thank me, but that did not happen.
At 4:15 pm I decided to head home to miss most of the afternoon traffic. Our bank is a short walk from our condominium, and here I got another surprise. I went to the drive-through ATM. I discovered that they had new software installed for 2018. In prior years when I requested cash, it offered to key in any amount, or a quick draw for $20, $40, $50, $70, or $100. This year it offered $50, $100, $150, $250, and $300. Last year it issued cash in ten and twenty denominations. This time in fifties. I took my $100 and went home to face the music.
I waited for Linda to get home, pour some wine, and look relaxed, prior to recounting my experience of the day. I knew that I would face a barrage of criticism for wasting our hard-earned money. Linda responded: Why did you not take this homeless man to a store, buy him shoes, trousers that fit, and while I was at it, a warm coat? I never do the right thing.
January 18, 2018