Additional thoughts on last night’s coffeehouse bum fight

When that bum started his beef with me for mooching off Starbucks’ electricity to run my laptop, it was plain as day that his only real target was the faggy barista who was giving him the bum’s rush. I was his nearest available prop and nothing more. Having just seen the barista needlessly start a passive-aggressive confrontation with this bum and another one or two who also had not been bothering me, a confrontation that itself distracted me from the writing I was trying to do about shanda fur die bougim warm homeless (an absurdly meta undertaking given the circumstances), I was proud to serve as an instrument of God and his humble servant. We might more accurately describe what this bum was trying to do as self-service, but that doesn’t bother me, either. Who the fuck else was around to give him a hand up or a handout? Dude was on his own.

And props to him for talking back to that twee, insincere, self-righteous little twatwaffle. The bums had been behaving themselves when he got up in their faces. They were a bit of a mess physically, but they were perfectly civil and self-controlled. They weren’t yelling or getting in anyone’s way or strewing junk everywhere. What gear they had brought with them into the lobby they were conscientiously keeping in tidy piles close to their persons. I was the only other customer there, anyway, since business had pretty well tapered off for the evening, so there was hardly anyone to inconvenience by leaving crap everywhere. One fellow came and went from the sidewalk seating area out front every few minutes, carrying an old shirt, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of Rain-X: probably a member of the mental health community, but not a troublesome one. Four or six of them appeared to be loosely together, some of them in both senses of the term. Nonetheless, they had their shit adequately together.

I know better than to expect the cold homeless to interact appropriately with the general population. This crowd wasn’t winning at life, but it behaved itself. Fuck, just look at all the sauced bruisers who run amok on #TheKay, like the Cambodian Ed Hardy scumbags from Elk Grove who hospitalized the Legion of Honor recipient for trying to stop the one meathead from battering his girlfriend on a public street. That crowd has stable housing, and it took one of the amateur train marshals to make even a hapless effort to secure the homeland against their violence.

That fey little faggot didn’t care. It would be nice if more of Sacramento’s middle class lived in a middle ground between Andrew Chan wannabes and Queer Eye for the Skid Row Guy, but this is the city that dropped a cool half a billion on a second-generation urban renewal baller palace while leaving several thousand of its utterly indigent citizens to their own devices in a tent Somalia infiltrating its warehouse district. I don’t come here for the cultural scene; I come here for the tree scene, which is bangin’ as fuck, and in the not entirely foolish hope that maybe SMUD will hire me as a utility arborist in the coming months or years. Make that the cultural management scene, I guess. The olive trees at the rest area by SMF look like they were buzz-cut suckered with a single pass of a hedge trimmer, so I did some hand-suckering this morning. It’s soulcraft. If you look closely (and I made sure that CHP and CalTrans weren’t when I did my thing this morning), you may notice that they’re less of a trashy mess than they were when I first laid hands on them. Inner-city Sacramento sure fucking isn’t.

On second thought, that little faggot does occupy a middle ground between the jet-setting homosexuality of wealth favored by Dire Straits and the health-endangering homosexuality of rural poverty lived by Pot-o-Shit Friend. The Ragin’ Canajun told me that PoSF was “super gay,” but the most shocking thing about him in retrospect wasn’t that he failed to trigger my (rather weak) radar; it was that he didn’t trigger my poodar. That little faggot had his own Brute trash can; that little faggot, he went poo in a bin. Our coffee queer from last night wouldn’t condescend to do a thing like that. He had a distinctly sheltered, prissy privilege about him. I’m sure that this included an extreme version of the traditional middle-class American privilege of not being able to articulate one’s relationship to the shit-in-a-box community. In the aftermath of Lady Pisspan and Pot-o-Shit Friend, that’s a privilege that I’m on standby to check with extreme prejudice. Keep an eye on that trailer door for the latest edition of the Cacaramento Poos and RevEww Get it while it’s hot and fresh! Yes, I have bodily shared and been invested in a property where my neighbors did that shit. Coffee Queer has no idea. Even the bums who beefed with him last night would probably find that pretty extreme, because those country-ass shitbirds ARE extreme, even by cold homeless standards.

Coffee Queer got rid of the bums last night with an impressive lack of empathy. I don’t know whether it was deliberate or merely insensitive, but it was unmistakable. Telling a person that he isn’t allowed to sleep in a nearly empty coffeehouse hours after the last customer rush is an asshole move. The bum who honored me by using me for his beef (and I do mean honor) wasn’t nodding off because he felt like being indolent. Let’s remember this, too: the engineer who crashed the Metro-North train on the Spuyten Duyvil curve days after an abrupt shift change wasn’t “allowed” to sleep, either. It’s called exhaustion. One literally can’t even stay awake. That is not an exaggeration. It is not a Millennialism.

And does anyone with half a brain think that the cold homeless charge their phones at Starbucks because they feel like sticking it to the Man? First, this is a company that proactively advises its customers of their right to get fucked up on the house until closing time with free refills just for registering a loyalty card. I’ve repeatedly had baristas mention this to me when I’ve paid for refills with cash, at prices that wouldn’t cover a crosstown bus transfer in many jurisdictions. That SMUD bill must be killing them. It should go without saying, of course, that the cold homeless have to deal with chaotic logistics. All too often they have trouble figuring out where they’ll be able to relieve themselves. (Oddly for a crew that policed its electricity so jealously, last night’s crew gave the bathroom code to everyone I heard ask for it, most of them obviously homeless.) They have to walk distances that would exhaust many gym rats, and they have to do so in unpredictably hostile weather, feeling every change of it in their bones, often without shade because the built environments where they live are hellscapes.

Yeah, of course the phone fairies will magically recharge their phones if only they ask politely. It’s their fault that they let their batteries run down. And I’m Chester Nimitz.

Starbucks didn’t suffer any material loss from that poor bum napping in a corner and charging his phone. It’s a marvelously profitable multinational corporation that charges, like, $10 a pound for parfait. It doesn’t even have franchisees to face off against their homeless neighbors in bum fights, or to allow to act as channels of old-country caste karma when the thirsty ask them for a cup of water. (By my reckoning, that’s the kind of immigrant who should be second in line for deportation, after serial violent felons.) If it has customers who are too squeamish to come in for a turbocharged fuck-me-up because a perfectly peaceable homeless guy is napping with his phone by the far wall, what the hell are they doing in inner-city Sacramento? No. What the hell are they doing in the United States? We all broke these people, so we bought them.

The reason I found Coffee Queer most deserving of the abuse he received, aside from his gratuitous hassling of peaceable bums per se, was that he was such a passive-aggressive, disingenuous little shit about it. He did not sincerely want them to have a nice night. If he had, he would have let them use every free outlet that a paying customer wasn’t trying to use. That’s how a barista can help a homeless person have a good night. It’s inadequate, but it’s a start, and it’s sincere. Coffee Queer wished them a good night in word while at the same time giving them an even worse night in deed than they would have had absent his meddling. That’s a weaselly little shit right there. I would have been on that bum’s side if he’d said as much to Coffee Queer’s face, or worse. In circumstances like last night’s, anything that doesn’t include an imminent threat of significant bodily harm is Brandenburg for extreme gentlemen. People who act like Coffee Queer did deserve a hostile work environment. Last night, in a rare outburst of justice, deserve did have something to do with it.

To answer that bum’s question, though, the one about why I, too, was running my laptop off company juice, it wasn’t ultimately because I was a paying customer, and it certainly wasn’t because I wanted to be used by some sniveling little shithead as a wedge against a harmless rough sleeper because I had bought a couple of foo-foo stuffed bagel bites. It was because I, too, was homeless enough to use a damn outlet. We’re among the rest of you. You may not notice us, and some of us like it that way, but we’re there. We’re on the loose. Let a barista know if one of us trashes the bathroom. It won’t be me, because I’d prefer to do without that chaos myself, but it also won’t be someone I’d help a pathologically sheltered fruit run out of the lobby for sponging off the company electrical hookup and getting some rest to steel himself for the night ahead. The crazy know not what they do; Father, forgive them, etc. ad nauseam. The precious we should expect to know better.

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