I was all alone for a week or so.
I'm not what you would call a spiffy dresser, even on the best of days, and perhaps, solitary, I was even less attentive than usual to my presentation. It is possible that I had neglected to comb my hair and it is also possible that I hadn't shaved for a few days. I do know for sure that I was wearing my favorite, familiar blue sweatshirt, the one with the hood, which is perhaps fifteen years old and a trifle faded. It may even have had a stain or two on its sagging front -- perhaps jam or spaghetti sauce or something equally tasty. The veteran sweatshirt may also have been slightly frayed at the sleeves -- but it is, or was, in my opinion, a very wearable garment.
In any case, one morning last week I took a walk over to Breadworks, my favorite establishment for day-old muffins. I set down my notebook, which is, I admit, slightly chewed, on a vacant table, noting that the next table over was occupied, but at that moment only by a plate of eggs and a cup of coffee, the customer no doubt hunting up more food or making a quick trip to the bathroom. I dug into a stack of used newspapers, came up with yesterday's Camera and sat down to read.
And then my putative neighbor, the young woman who must have previously claimed the next table, returned. She took a long look at me. I smiled slightly, as one does in such situations. She quickly gathered her plate and coffee and moved to a vacant table three over from me.
Oh my gosh! I know exactly what she was thinking. "Homeless." "Loathsome."
How awful it must be to be regularly and unapologetically shunned!
My daughters have been visiting this week. I hadn't even mentioned this incident, but they independently took one look at my well-worn-in stained garment and quite spontaneously trotted off to Army-Navy store just off the Pearl Street Mall and came home with a brand new Carhart sweatshirt, which after a few years of use will become a new favorite. The old blue friend-of-long-standing is in the rag bag.
I can now I enter any coffee shop in our fair city and proudly rejoin the respectable citizenry. Or should I say the fastidious citizenry.