Warning. This is not for the faint of heart.
Here’s a brief story that I just can’t shake. It’s funny, but it’s sad.
Yesterday I went to the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden to take the train to Philly. I saw a wrinkled, skinny, elderly man with old plastic bags standing in front of a ticket machine. Two security guards stood in front of him, gently telling him that he could not be there unless he was going to buy a ticket.
The man seemed to know the guards and he told them that he had a ticket, but I don’t think he did. He had been hanging out there. I saw sympathy on the face of the guards, but they had to tell him to move on. I glanced at him and felt guilty.
Here I was, off to Philadelphia for a nice dinner with friends and then a writing workshop, and this man needed a warm place. I put in a five to buy my ticket and the change clinked into the metal change dispenser along with the ticket. As I bent down to take my change and ticket, I realized that the man had peed all over the floor next to me. The guards saw it, too and they spoke kindly, but kept reminding him that he had to leave.
Ooh. It was so cold yesterday that I kept on my gloves. I removed the coins and ticket somewhat awkwardly because of the gloves. The darn ticket slipped from my gloved hand and flew like magic into the puddles of pee. I jumped back and moved to a machine farther away to purchase a new ticket. No way was I going to retrieve the other ticket.
One guard saw my plight and he said, “No, I’ll call for you,” and he arranged that I could take the train without paying again.
It was almost funny how the ticket seemed whisked by a strange force from my hand onto the floor into the pee. It was sad that someone at the end of his life should be in that situation.