Sunday, April 5, 2015

Breakfast with a Panhandler

I've taken to getting up early, walking or biking. Mostly getting out and enjoying the weather and the flowering cactus. The whole desert is yellow with splashes of pink and orange. Beautiful.

Friday I stopped at a gas station to drink coffee and watch the world go by. A large man politely asked to join me at the table outside. I nodded. He scowled at a police car watching for traffic violations. He put the beer he bought under a blanket in a saddlebag on his bicycle. His bike had a motor. He sat down and explained that some folks choose coffee in the morning while he chose beer. Just two a day, slowly consumed. I nodded and said it was his choice. I was thinking about two.

You see, I worked in substance abuse treatment. Two was the magic number that meant way more than two. Two never means two. I waited.

He took his pocket knife and worked on a scratch off lottery ticket. It was a complicated one, so we talked while he gradually revealed more of the card.

He said he was a pan handler. I told him I was a storyteller. He smiled, said that we both have to watch what we say. I agreed. He suddenly said that he drank two in the morning, two midday, two in the afternoon, and two in the evening. Two, as I said, is a magical number. It is the only number that can really be eight, sixteen or even thirty if mentioned in reference to beverages or food. Remember those "two" cookies the dieter claims is all they ate?

No one ever uses three or four to fudge numbers, it's always two.

I smiled. He finished his scratch off, it was a loss. Win some, lose some he said with detachment. He was scruffy but clean, cautious not to appear sloppy. He had a tattered flag and the other accents that reinforce the perception one has that says "give me," just as a fast food worker and a secretary have their own uniforms.

I had one cup of coffee, or was it two?