And rarely if ever was there a news report about the forty something year old man with “mental problems” that essentially lived out of a makeshift encampment on the relatively steep decline leading from the grocery store’s dumpster’s loading and unloading area in the back of the store down to the railroad tracks. And at the top of that decline and behind the shopping structure itself there was an alleyway/parking lot where deliveries were made and early-bird-catching-worms types of employees could park their cars. This area was separated from the main parking lot and strip mall entry and exit ways by the mall structure itself; and beyond that was a wooded area. The woods began as a rather sharp but not unnavigable decline that nadir’d at a still used- but more for commuter than industrial purposes- set of railroad tracks. The hill itself was covered with trees and underbrush and various items in violation of posted “No Dumping” signs…your standard dryers, refrigerators, tires, and miscellaneous clothing sort of thing. He had some basic camping style supplies, a good jacket, solid boots, a calm stare and a smell that could vaporize titanium. He’d served in the military in a variety of capacities in the Bosnian war, Operation Uphold Democracy, the Kosovo war and the war in Afghanistan, before obtaining an honorable discharge and returning to civilian life- with some hazard pay, a few medals and no visible scars. During subsequent years he slowly eroded into his current position as the guy who lived behind the Safeway. At this point he was basically okay enough to get through the day; and he didn’t bother anyone that wasn’t inherently bothered by him already; and the occasional drunken high school kid attempting pranks and/or talking some shit didn’t bother him either- he saw it as a kind of growing up, right of passage thing. And none of this kind of stuff made the news, or really should have in any specific sense. Occasionally there would be an overarching story about veterans returning home from wars/engagements and sort of being left to their own devices with regard to dealing with the shit they now needed to deal with; and how maybe violence and dysfunctional social relationships and suicide were kind of par for the course, so to speak, when you send an eighteen/nineteen/twenty year old kid- who hasn’t probably seen anything but three or so stop lights, his momma and the same ten women his like whole life- eighty five hundred miles away to defend freedom by killing or being killed. The news stories were always about how to help these young men and women, who’d been sent into quite literal hell equipped not with education, philosophy and perspective but rather with the most powerful and efficient killing implements that have existed in all of human history, by offering counseling or specially designed weekend outings that would allow for similar horrors to be both shared and unrelieved over the course of some roller coaster rides, funnel cakes and a photo opportunity. And the stories never seemed to be about how none of any of this was about freedom and how war always ends up leaving a generation of men and women either dead or dying and that there is really only one way to mitigate all of this aftermath; and that is to stop fighting all together. But, since that has never been and probably never will be an actual realistic like option, a real actual choice, the disease would be allowed to continue, if not championed, and the symptoms would continually emerge and be simultaneously monetized and wept about. The news didn’t have time to spend on the dude coping out back in the woods behind the Safeway; neither while he was serving his country as a hero nor while slowly falling apart back at home as a shadowy, mobile, suburban blight- that is until he took a shit near the dandelions on the floor of the grocery store and was arrested. But I knew it wasn’t his fault when the two notably un-embittered commercial cops in big hats and magnificently flat circumferencing brims slide dragged the forty something year old homeless man out from behind the island of prepared foods where he’d been holding his post-shit freedom demonstration. He had been refusing to exit the store demanding that management remove the recently installed combination lock on the previously open to the public restroom located to the left of the automated doors near the Coinstar and automated box of rental DVDs. However, the cops were unable or unwilling to understand that he hadn’t intended to take a dump on the floor any more than he had any of the other countless days prior when at 8:47 AM, like clockwork, he came to take care of his remarkably regular business; and did so by depositing his funds, so to speak, in the appropriate and, most importantly like not fucking locked, receptacle; before of course quietly washing his hands and face and exiting the store. Only today the door was locked; and the florist who’d refused to give the man who lived in the woods out back the code called over the store manager who’d installed the lock- on orders from the regional manager who’d been told by a VP @ Corporate that,
- We are rolling out a new security protocol based on the winds that are blowing in from our insurance folks.
All of which had lead to the store manager instructing store personnel to disseminate, under no circumstances, the code to the bathroom, to non-customers. The store manager then promptly came over and explained the very complex and sophisticated logic behind why the guy who lived in the woods out back wasn’t allowed to poop there anymore. But, as you can imagine, folks who live in the woods probably don’t take luxury style jaunts into frowned upon public facilities unless they more or less have to- if you know what I mean (read: it’s a known fact that patience is only extended so far for more or less trespassing vagrants, so that one only really trespasses when one knows one has to shit, imminently; rather than when one like maybe will have to poop when one gets there, kind of thing); and so before the store manager had finished thanking the man for his repeated business he’d already shit on the like god damned floor and filed a motion on his own behalf refusing to leave until the lock was removed. The man was removed instead and released by the commercial cops into the hands of the municipal cops who upheld the store’s right to lock their bathroom and remanded the bum into custody where he was housed and fed, given medical care and a toilet and eventually released back into the wild. Win win.