Previously on Inside the Nice Guy – The greater the risk, the greater the gain.
Though most of the specifics during the trip through Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, are lost, I’m sure most of my time was spent listening to various music compilations burned to compact disc, guzzling down astoundingly large amounts of carbonated caffeine drinks, and trying to avoid thinking about how bat-shit scared I was.
Sure, I had saved up a decent cushion to help finance part of my move, and enable my ability to provide man’s basic needs for survival. That would only last so long. What would happen if I didn’t find a job before I ran out of money?
When it came to having a place to kick-up my feet at night…well…luck was gracious enough to strike and provide a solution to that particular dilemma.
At the time I knew less than a handful of people in Los Angeles. Of the few I was still in touch with were a couple of girls (sisters), whom I had gone to school with through high school, that had moved out there a few years prior. They referred me to another fellow previous classmate who moved out there for film school.
Coincidentally, the estimated dates I was hoping to move were the very same when his roommate was moving out. It didn’t take long to consider this opportunity and tell him to call off his search.
We were expected to arrive in L.A., mid-morning. Plans had been made so my roommate would meet up with us to let us in, and help unload our vehicles. As we approached the city I gave him a call to let him know we’d probably be outside of the apartment in 15-20 minutes. He was away doing some location scouting for his senior thesis film, but confirmed he would be there not much longer after us. He recommended we wait near the parking garage to the complex, which was underneath an overpass for ‘the 10′ freeway.
Sure enough we beat him to the complex and parked our cars.
If you are not familiar with the city, Los Angeles has a rather large homeless community. A popular location to take shelter is underneath an overpass, where you can sometimes see the construction of “little cities” made of boxes, shopping carts, and anything else stable enough to provide shelter.
Within my first 15 minutes of being a Los Angeleno I experienced two events that stick with me to this very day.
The first was the simple act of a homeless woman getting up from her blanket, walking over to the curb, dropping her pants, squatting, and taking a literal piss on Los Angeles. Though some could say she was making a political statement; I tend to believe she simply needed to pee.
The second event is a little more profound, and perhaps slightly poignant. At the time my father was a smoker. (He no longer is; proud of you Dad) After having lit up a cigarette a homeless gentleman approached him asking if he could get a smoke. As my father handed him one from the pack, this gentleman tried to then exchange it for a quarter.
He was going to pay my father $.25 for the cigarette.
Witnessing this was probably the best thing I could have seen during that particular time in my life. Plus, it made for a much better following-up to the witnessing of the previously mentioned voiding of the bowels.
That quarter could have very well been the only money this guy had. He was willing to part with this for a simple smoke. Some may criticize saying, “Well, there’s the reason he’s homeless/poor/etc.; he doesn’t know how to manage his money.” Blah, blah blah.
That’s one way to look at it, sure.
But here’s what I took away from it.
Up until this point in my life I have been around smokers on a frequent basis. From my experience it’s not rare that when one person lights up another may want to, only to realize they don’t have any on them. This would then result in a complete stranger asking to “bum a smoke.” Smoker #1 then typically hands one over willingly; where Smoker #2 simply says “Thanks.”
In most of those scenarios, I had never seen said stranger offer money in exchange for the cigarette. But here was a man with very little (to our knowledge) still willing to provide some sort of compensation to my dad; a person who has the means to buy his own cigarettes, provide for himself and his family, and help his son move hundreds of miles away from his childhood home.
Maybe it’s my eternally optimistic disposition towards life, but it was that very moment I saw one of the best examples ever that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that kindness can be found in even the most unexpected of places.
-to be continued-
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