Wednesday, June 27, 2007

curbside pickup

I notice him on my way in, he's got no shoes and his feet look horrible. Homeless feet. Swollen, cracked, purpleish-red. The kind that have walked too far for far too long.

Me: Looks like you could use some shoes.
Him: Fuck you.
Me: Dude. (I duded him with my special WTF? version)
Me: (trying again) did you just tell me to fuck myself?
Him: Don't tell me what I need.
Me: Ah..see, I wasn't so much telling you what you need as making an observation. Your feet look like they hurt. Do they hurt?
Him: Yeah, they hurt.
Me: I work here. I might be able to help.
Him: You must be doing a shitty job. I'm still homeless. Look around. Lots of people are still homeless.
Me: Dude, some days I agree. But it's a big job, homelessness.
Him: You should still do a better job.
Me: I agree. Want me to start with you? How about coming in to see the nurse. Maybe we can find some shoes. Or you know, I can take my half assed homeless helping self elsewhere if you've got other things to do.
Him: Sorry for being an asshole.
Me: We are all assholes sometimes. Now stop being an asshole and help me do a better job.
Him: I guess it's the least I can do.
Me: I'd say.
Him: I didn't really mean to say fuck you. I am just tired and sick and my feet hurt.
Me: I know. Let's see what we can do. And I trust you'll tell me if I do a shitty job at it.
Him: I suppose I can do that. (He's cracked now, a half smile even. I've got him. We're rolling)
Me: Good. Now get off your ass and come with me. I've got a reputation to work on here.
Him: (chuckling) You alright, girl.

We are both alright, friend.


Jenn said...

You are so alright.

God, you are so much more than alright.


NotSoSage said...

You astound me.

You've got to have a very thick skin and two helpings of fearlessness. I'd have been so caught up in myself and focused on being rejected I would have been stymied.

Consider your reputation saved.

Anonymous said...

how do you learn to get past the rebuff?

I am so easily dejected and put aside, even on easy stuff.

Anonymous said...

whoops. Sage's comment wasn't there when I posted. What she says.

thailandchani said...

Yes, Sage's advice is good.. not always so easy to accomplish but I can definitely see the way you handled that, turned it around.

Now the big question: What was the outcome? What happened with him?



jen said...

Sage/De - it was on my home turf. it's an easily defined space. if this was at the grocery store out of my element, i probably would have accepted the rebuff too.

jen said...

Chani, he saw the nurse. we found him some shoes. and he's still homeless. so he was right about some things, wasn't he?

Lawyer Mama said...

Perfect way to talk someone down. I'm going to copy your technique the next time I'm tempted to strangle someone.

Dawn said...

Yes - I have used this same thing with people in poverty - stressed, angry, sad, exhausted - sometimes to get to help, you have to accept anger that isn't directed so much at you, but the world.

Then show that despite the outer package, you do understand. Not in the "talk down to you" way - but sincerely. Genuinely. And how can we make a plan to get through this one piece.

slouching mom said...

What an amazing way you have with people.


Very few people could have done that so well.

QT said...

Somewhere, Socrates is scratching his head and wondering why he didn't think to add "dude" to the socratic method.

That guy didn't stand a chance! Nice work, sister.

But yeah, could you work a little harder on the homeless thing? :)

Julie Pippert said...

You're definitely more than a little bit of all right my friend.

More fodder for you to include in your package to Bill. :)

kgirl said...

You know what Jen? I doubt you would have turned away no matter where you encountered this man. Humbled. Again.

Deezee said...

you've got the touch...and these tales are always magnificent in how they lend a voice to the voiceless.

Karen Forest said...

You are absolutely amazing. AMAZING! I love this.

You have a gift and you are doing a GREAT job. Connecting with people is as important as finding them homes. Dude, You take the cake on connecting.

Her Bad Mother said...

qt - Socrates did use the word 'dude' - he used it a LOT - it just doesn't translate well from ancient Greek.

I had an experience yesterday, walking past the same sort of fellow, who, when I galnced his way, yelled 'I DON'T SCARE YOU. I AIN'T SCARY.' I stopped, and turned to him, and said, no, you certainly don't, you look like a pretty good guy to me, and he laughed and laughed and laughed and said almost the same words: you're alright.

(i heart you)

KC said...

I'll have you know I dreamt last night of listening to Bill Clinton talk to a group of medical students.

I see parallels in what we do. Trying to help people, some who need to get past a defensive exterior to let you. I worked hard to get rolling with a patient on Monday. I wasn't cursed at, but it was a simliar situation. We eventually got there, but it took time,not taking things personally, moving forward. And in the end, worth it. An upcoming post.

Oh, The Joys said...

You're way more than all right, girl.


Hel said...

If we could all drop our fears and realize that someone is not attacking us and joke with them and see a smile replace hostility - what a good place this world would become.

I'm taking this lesson to bed with me tonight. I have been way too defensive lately.

mitzh was right to nominate you and flutter for the you rock award.

Because YOU ROCK!

Anonymous said...

Long time lurker to your blog here. I couldn't not respond to this one.

You've got my vote for the YOU ROCK award.

Little Monkies said...

That just rocks. There are a million things I want to say about that interaction and a million ways I could emulate it instead of staring at the ground and shuffling on. We learn from what we observe. I learned something today.

Anonymous said...

I've had patients tell me to fuck off as well. Doesn't bother me in the least cause I know it's not personal. Glad you were able to crack his defenses. Those feet sound like they need care.

Z said...

You gave him an opportunity to be gracious, to feel like a friend. That's so great.

Have I ever thanked you? For helping me to relax and chat, when I give a few coins to a beggar or buy a Big Issue? I used to be self-conscious, try to be friendly but afraid to sound patronising. Now, I just chat for a few moments without thinking about it.

It doesn't do anything, but I feel that we're relating a bit as people, not in a giver/receiver way, you know?

I still can't say 'dude' except ironically, but I can write it now. Hah! (I'd be absurd if I said it, I'm too old, too English and too sensible).

I love you, Jen. You are fine.

luckyzmom said...

I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Blog Antagonist said...

Yeah, what luckyzmom said. You are a special breed, you and your ilk. What would the world do without you?

kristen said...

i love that you gave it right back to him with compassion. i love that you said it like it is and you were able to break through and get him help.

sometimes saying fuck you to someone is all you can do and i love that you can see past that. xo

thailandchani said...

Jen, I wish more than anything that he was no longer homeless. I wish there was a place he could have gone. Couldn't he have stayed at the shelter? At the same time, the fact that he was evaluated by a nurse and got some shoes will at least make his homelessness a bit easier. The smallest things... mean a lot.

I can understand his "FU", too. There comes a point... and he probably has no idea why it occurred or how to make it better. He's just pissed off. Who wouldn't be?



mamatulip said...

I aspire to be more like you. Seriously.

Nancy said...

You're definitely alright. And much much more than that.

ewe are here said...

I'm sure everyone here said it already, but you are more than alright. You rock. And then some.

meno said...

Wow, you are good my friend, that was perfect.

Christine said...

jen, you rock, dude.

you know so many people out there would have been scared or pissed or blind to it all.

this made me want to hug that dude. and you.

alejna said...

You're my hero. In so many ways.


The Holmes said...

Dude, you're tough. Nice work.

Tabba said...

I imagine that the amount of shit he must hear from people on a daily basis (heckling, tormenting, etc) being an asshole is pretty mandatory. That life, day in and day out, is hard on a person and their feet.
Good for you for sticking it out with him....I'm glad he cracked a bit.

And you are so way more than just alright.


flutter said...

You are fucking amazing, is what you are.

Laurie said...

You've made me cry. You are amazing.

Ruth Dynamite said...

You are a gift.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Good on you, girl. Good on you.

Ally said...

Holy smokes. You just rolled with that conversation like you were born for this kind of work. Which of course, you were. Well done, you.

Carrie said...

Wow. You two went along fine.
You were amazing in dealing with someone in that kind of situation.

metro mama said...

Dude, you're more than alright.

pgoodness said...

You are so very good at what you do - it is who you are and so impressive. Sad he's still homeless, but shoes are a good start. One step at a time, right? You're better than alright - you're spectacular.

Aliki2006 said...

I'm so glad he got shoes--small steps, right? Small steps.

I'm in awe of your rapport with him, your ability to pull him in.

mitzh said...

You're an angel... :)

Bon said...


(i know, all i ever say is dude anymore. i can't help myself)

but dude, you're good. i'm so glad.

i cracked up at 'half-assed homeless helping self'...and i'm so glad he came in. and i agree with Sage...two helpings of fearlessness.

you teach me. thank you.

Bob said...

Good for you both. Some friends do start out in a weird way but still end up being fine.
You make a great example.