I’m annoyed but mildly amused when slow-witted asshats assume I’m retarded and speak freely in my presence. They delude themselves into believing that I can’t fathom their piddly conversations.
While I was stuck in the warehouse I scheduled a dentist appointment for myself. The staff could only be bothered with the needs of near-death patients and then only to head off criticism from the chronically bitchy head nurse. The nurse on my floor heavily sighed at the inconvenience of doing her job, then scheduled a ride to my dentist with a Medivan. Medivans are designed similarly to the vans intended to augment handicap accessible public transit but are dispatched exclusively for transportation to and from medical appointments. Use of medivans for any other purpose is officially prohibited.
The drivers of these medivans invariably listened to the radio and their passengers became captive audiences. The ubiquitous urban contemporary stations were fairly entertaining; I vehemently hated the sports talk that some Neanderthal drivers favored; gospel radio usually provided the soundtrack to a discussion of illicit activities.
The driver of the van en route to the dentist listened to a gospel station. He and the other passenger, a skinny self-described “gangstuh” in his early twenties and slumping in a wheelchair, discussed the recreational use of crack.
The skinny guy cataloged the crack-smoking habits of his entire family—his mother, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins of all varieties. He was especially proud of a brother-in-law who could take a couple of hits and then walk away instead of craving more.
The driver described his weekly crack routine: “Every Friday I get my paycheck. After work I go by my cousin’s and start smokin’ and at about 11:00 all my money’s gone. Ain’t that fucked up?” He shook his head and clucked his tongue. He and the skinny guy seemed to take for granted the decision to regularly squander an entire paycheck on the drug but were outraged by the high prices demanded by their dealers.
The skinny guy eagerly revealed his time-tested strategy: “I gets my money sellin’ these papers to dumb muthafuckin’ white peoples.” He silently counted the copies of StreetWise stacked in his lap.
StreetWise is a newspaper sold mostly on city streets by the homeless. The publishers strive to empower displaced people by providing them with an income and business skills.
The skinny guy continued: ”I always sell my papers near where I stay at the convalescent home. I sell out about six or seven at night, then I can buy me a few rocks. The policemens, they think I just be a crippled-up homeless trying to make right, so they leaves me alone.”
Though I was late for my appointment, we headed to StreetWise headquarters so the skinny guy could get more papers. He explained to the driver that he usually bought several copies from a resident at the nursing home where he lived. The resident accepted low-quality crack as payment, so those copies turned a high profit—business skills in action.
When we arrived at StreetWise headquarters the driver climbed out of the van and ambled around the front of the vehicle toward the side door. He flung the door open and wheeled the skinny guy in the wheelchair onto an ostensibly sturdy metal lift perpendicular to the van’s floor; then he flipped a switch on the inside of the van next to the doorway and the lift lurched toward the sidewalk. As the lift descended, the mechanism’s gears sounded like they grinded against one another.
While the skinny guy took care of his business inside the building I reminded the driver that I was late for my appointment. He turned to me and made eye contact, then turned back around. He said nothing.
After the skinny guy had checked in as a vendor and the StreetWise people had entrusted him with a bundle of papers, he wheeled out of the building. The driver helped the young entrepreneur onto the lift and into the van. I gathered from their conversation that the next stop would be the skinny guy’s paper-peddling territory. I again mentioned my lateness. The driver and the skinny guy paused for a nanosecond after I’d spoken, then resumed exchanging crack experiences.
Fifteen minutes later the van pulled up to the curb half a block from a busy intersection. The driver stepped out of the van and into traffic. I wished the skinny guy luck hawking StreetWise to dumb mothafuckin’ white peoples and further extended my sincere hope that the rocks purchased with the profits rendered him wildly fucked up. His astonished and confused expression reflected that he didn’t know whether to shit or howl at the moon.
After the driver had lowered him to the sidewalk and slammed the door, I heard the skinny guy ask about me. I couldn’t understand the muffled reply.