On my way to pick up some of my usual rancid beer at Jim’s Liquors in Southbridge, MA (a booze emporium that caters to, at times, a rather unsavory crowd), I noticed a young fellow crouched near the entrance.
Before I entered the store, this young man, dressed in soiled attire, a well-worn backpack, and sporting a knit cap, inquired as to whether I was going into Sturbridge and, if so, could he hitch a ride.
I looked him over, and in a handful of seconds deemed him safe. I said, “Sure. Hop in. I’ll be right out.”
As I pulled out of the lot, he introduced himself as Shenan “…but my real name is Shenandoah. I’m half Blackfoot Indian and half Italian.” I told him that my wife was part Blackfoot Indian as well.
I asked, “So what part of Sturbridge are you heading?”
“The Post Office, but anywhere would be fine.”
My itinerary, after the purchase of my ghastly 40 oz. Natty Ice (hell, 5.9% alcohol, only $2.45, and equal to over three 12 oz. beers) was to get a coffee from Drunkin Donuts for my Love, and then head on over to Shaw’s.
I thought about his request and, since it was rather brutally cold outside said, “I’ll take you to the Post Office, no problem.”
He then launched, with no prodding on my part, into his story, how he was a poet and musician, and that he enjoys writing songs and playing in a band and during the summer works at Annie’s Kitchen and that his wife works at a supermarket. (I’ve always found it amazing how so many people divulge their lives to me with no prompting whatsoever.)
With that I told him that I was a writer, and model, and teacher. H then asked me if I was an artist as well. I told him that I was indeed and he replied, “Yeah, I thought so. You look like one.”
I chuckled at that, as it must be because of my unruly mop of long hair. It’s the equivalent of the time I went to a yard sale with my wife and I had on my leather jacket. The guy selling his wares asked me, “Hey, you interested in buyin’ a Harley?” I politely declined, and neglected to add the fact that I’ve never been on a motorcycle. I guess, like Shenandoah, I ‘looked’ the part.
I pulled into the Post Office and gave Shenandoah my business card. We shook hands and he bade goodbye. I left him on the sidewalk. He said he lived across the street.
When I got home I told my lovely bride the story. She had reservations about my decision but I told her that “…he seemed harmless enough.”
Which brings me to the point of this little tale. Have you ever been in that position, where you see someone like Shenandoah, and immediately size them up, in just a few seconds?
For example, if you drive into Worcester and take Exit 17, to Belmont Street, do you sometimes espy a ‘homeless’ person begging for money, with a pathetic cardboard sign that is damp and bent from the drizzle? The person usually sports a limp of sorts, and shuffles down the line of cars with a sad, forlorn expression etched into their lined visage. Do you ponder pawing through your pockets for a paucity of change, or do you immediately avert your eyes and pretend this wretched soul doesn’t exist?
Sometimes, as in the case of Shenandoah, a simple human connection can be made. I learned something about him, how he was a creative soul, how he was friendly, and courteous, and thankful, simply grateful for a ride that negated his trek by foot in the frigid brumal air.
There are many stories to be heard out there, if only we are willing to allow a hint of humanity to enter our rushed and insulated lives.
You never know; a chance meeting could be the bud of a beautiful future story.