Not far from one of the bridges where I work is an abandoned building covered with graffiti. A homeless guy is squatting in one of the sheds on the property. He likes to carry a bright pink shield that he seems to have fashioned out of scrap wood, duct tape and a plastic bag. He isn’t doing anyone any harm. He’s a lot safer there than he would be squatting under some overpass like the majority of the mentally ill in Seattle seem to do.
But the other day I saw four teenage boys descend on the place. They were probably only looking for someplace out of the rain to smoke weed. They went into the dark building and disappeared. This rousted shield man from his shed, and he started patrolling the perimeter of the property, brandishing his pink shield. He paced back and forth, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. I was actually kind of scared for him, because these four young men could have easily taken him out if they wanted to, in spite of his protection, or perhaps because of it.
Finally the boys left the building and watched shield man pace for a minute or two. They were obviously thinking. I contemplated calling the police before someone got hurt, but they would have kicked shield man out of his shed, too, and he’d be a lot worse off. So I simply watched nervously. First sign of trouble I was going to get on the phone.
Finally the boys left, and shield man went to where they had been standing and indignantly tamped out their reefer butts. Clearly he has some form of pride of place. He then went back into his shed. Crisis averted.
I can’t even imagine what this man’s life is like. He’s all alone in his damp metal shed with only his shield to keep him company. But he’s doing the best he can. Aren’t we all? Or are we? We should be able to do better for men like him.
[Image credit: thedirtfloor.com]