What's this guy up to?

One fine workday morning as I was waiting at my downtown bus stop, a pile of trash bags began to stir. You wouldn't have known it, but under the bags was a man.

He rubbed his eyes, then greeted the day with a yawn and a swig of something from a bottle. Homelessness is a rotten situation, but with his "what the hell" demeanor, I had to smile at the guy.

He stretched himself awake same as anyone does, caught me looking, and smiled and waved from across the sidewalk. It's a wide sidewalk at the bus stop, so he & I were, what, twenty feet apart? Thirty?

All of this so far is ordinary, for downtown. Thousands of bums sleep under anything they can find for warmth. This particular bum was in good spirits, and as he got to his feet, he gave me a long-distance high-five from across the sidewalk, just holding his hand in the air. Why not? I returned it from where I stood, at the curb.

Rising to his feet, he pulled a comb from his jeans pocket and tidied his hair, and then he did some things I'd never seen on the sidewalk before.

He lifted his right leg, folded it all the way at the knee, then strongly straightened it all the way, and put it down. Then he did the same with his left leg. A homeless guy, doing stretches first thing in the morning?

He reached into one of the garbage bags, filled not with trash but with his possessions, and pulled out an ordinary pair of well-worn leather or fake-leather shoes.

He slipped his feet into the shoes, then lifted the right foot & shoe onto the sill of the pawn shop, and laced it firmly. Then the left.

Then came another round of stretches, and I was still watching, bemused and mildly bewildered. He was watching me watching, and I wondered, What's this guy up to?

And then he danced. Not being an aficionado of the arts, I couldn't say what the dance was, but it was the kind of dance where nothing above his torso was moving much, but his legs went all over town, under him. Stylistically it might've been tap-dancing, but there were no clicks, and the city was still half-asleep so I would've heard.

Whatever the dance, he was fine at it. In his previous life he'd clearly been a dancer, maybe a professional. He's still a dancer, and now he's a tin-can professional. At some point unnoticed by me, he'd placed a can on the sidewalk. A note taped to the can said simply, "Please."

He danced for a couple of minutes, and two people dropped coin or paper into his can. He took a break as my bus was approaching, so I quickly fumbled with my wallet and handed him something green. He wasn't dancing at that moment, so why not hand it over, instead of putting it in the can?

"Thank you, mister," he said, and I said, "Thank you, mister," and got in line to step onto the bus. By the time I'd boarded and found a seat and looked out the window, he was dancing again.



  1. This is sweet, and reminds me of "Mister Bojangles".

    1. He didn't have a dog, but damn, now I'm hearing that song too.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.