The Station Platform Campbelltown

Campbelltown StationImage via Wikipedia
Campbelltown Station.
“Excuse me, do you have one dollar for phone call?” I am asked by a ruffled looking man with a thick beard and an accent of some indefinable sort.

I stop eating my apple and look at him. He is wearing sneakers and a navy blue suit which looks un-ironed on him, flecks of grey streak through his black beard and hair. He could be a swarthy looking Russian or an Armenian or from somewhere similar. Without saying a word I reach for my back pocket. He takes this gesture for an acceptance and thanks me but not waiting for his coin takes a seat at a bench. I give him two dollars, the only gold coin I have in my pocket, and he then lies down on the bench and shuts his eyes as if to sleep.

The station guard walks down the platform.

“Where are you going mate?” Which station are you going to?” He asks, waking the vagrant.

“The city,” mumbles the other.

“Well you can’t sleep, you’ve only got eight minutes. You can’t sleep and miss this train like the last one.”

He’s not going to the city, I reflected to myself. Didn’t have a phone call to make either — he has no-one to call. No more than he has a place to go to. I reflected on this strange enforced wandering of the life of a vagrant.
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JJ said...

Akseli: Interesting post. All over the world there are homeless with untold stories. I also ponder their fate, occasionally. I have handed out pizza, parted with a few dollars, and told young, able-bodied imitators to trade begging for employment. Nothing works, of course.

I have no answer, but your post reminded me of a time five years ago when I bought dinner at a fancy restaurant for two gypsy women living on the street in Dublin, Ireland. I am inclined to write a post on the story.

In any event, great post. I, too, am reflecting.

Tom Hakkinen said...

Yes, all too often we pass homeless people without giving them any thought. Then occasionally, you stop and, remembering your common humanity with such an unfortunate, reflect on the condition of their existence.

Whilst there isn't really anything an individual can do for these people, I think it is important not to forget them. There is a quote from George Bernard Shaw (I had to look it up - I don't remember it by heart):

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity."

In this spirit, I look forward to reading your story. I am sure it will be interesting and I am equally sure it will be a story worth telling.

Judie said...

I have a very funny story to tell you. When Rod was in college in Atlanta, he worked during the day and took night classes. At that time, Ga. State was on the edge of a rough section of Atlanta, and he was always a little nervous walking there at night. One night a very large black man with one eye sewed shut stepped out of the shadows of a doorway and asked Rod for a dollar. Money was very tight, and Rod only had a ten dollar bill to get him through to the following week. In response to the man's request for a dollar, Rod asked, "Do you have change for a ten?" Of course the man said he didn't and it wasn't until Rod reached his classroom that he realized just what he had said.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Akseli.
We have quite a town full of homeless people. Knoxville, TN caters to the homeless and it is a sort of mecca. I am guilty of feeling indifferent.
The face of homelessness has changed in my world. It use to be the mentally ill men who only had the clothes on their backs. Now it is an entirely different constellation.

Roxy said...

When I see a homeless person, I worry for them. I wonder where they'll sleep at night, why they are in those circumstances. Like JJ, I've given money to some, and bought food for them on occasion, and this thought always flashes through my mind. I think of John Bradford. You know, 'There, but for the grace of God, go I . . .'

Tom Hakkinen said...

That's a great tale Judie. It seems to me somehow humanising, that Rod considered the request and gave what he thought he could, and for what it's worth I'm sure that the homeless person would appreciate the dollar shared by another human being to the five dollars haughtily handed-out by someone else.

PAMO, yes I think most of the time we are all indifferent and only occasionally some curious event will remind us of the human being behind the question "do you have a dollar?"

Roxy, yes exactly, that's a phrase my mum used to often repeat when growing-up and even though I've become estranged from the church I still readily understand the sentiment. Notwithstanding all the advances in technology we live with, people still slip through the cracks.