Friday, July 25, 2008

Crazy People

Two quick stories for you today, regarding people you always hear about but rarely ever encounter.

When it's nice outside I frequently walk to a metro stop a little further away from my office on my way home. It's a nice walk, cuts down on my time spent underground (though usually increases total commute time), and puts a little extra activity into my day.

When I walk to this stop I invariably pass a particular woman on the street, begging for change. She's always got a milk crate set out with a sign on it announcing that she has three children and whatever other particular hardship she's advertising that day (and she cycles through a few of them). In the beginning I pitched in from time to time, but as I discovered that she was a regular my donations quickly tapered off. I'm not sure why, but I find it much more difficult to give to the needy people I know are out there every day than the needy people I just happen to have a chance encounter with. There's obviously some sort of barrier for this woman and her family, that is keeping her from getting/keeping a job with a livable wage. It could a health issue, a competency issue, a social issue, a financial issue, or even just a laziness issue. I don't know, and I've got no basis for speculating.

But apparently someone else felt they did have a basis for speculating as to her issues, because when I walked by the other day there was a guy who had stopped and was talking to her - no, make that arguing with her - about her issues. He had actually stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, on his commute home for the day, to argue with a panhandler.

I didn't catch much of the conversation, but the little I heard as I sped past made it very obvious that this would be a fruitless discussion. The fellow was simply scolding her for being irresponsible when there are (he alleged) so many place right around her panhandling spot where she could find a job to support herself and three children. She started to explain to him why that wouldn't work for her, but he was having none of it. That was all I caught of their conversation, but it was enough to make me wish I had had a couple bucks on me at the time. I would happily have handed over my change to the lady, just to see the look on the guy's face.

And maybe I would have even given him a little too; handing him my dollar I'd pat him on the head and say, "I hear the county has a really wonderful program for those with mental disabilities."

I spent part of my day today in one of our other offices. One of the attorneys there got her sister an "internship" with our organization. I was just being nice, making conversation, and since the intern looked quite young I asked if she was in law school. She told me that she wasn't, and that she was in college. I continued to be nice, and asked where she went to school. That was when she told me that she wasn't in classes yet, but would be going to a community college in the fall for a semester or two before applying to George Mason. She couldn't got straight to Mason, it turns out, because she had "left" high school.

That was when I stopped being nice.

"You mean, you're a high school dropout?"
"No," she replied proudly, "I'm a high school dropout with a genius IQ."
"No. You are a high school dropout. Your IQ doesn't matter. You dropped. Out. Of. High school."
"I didn't need high school, I have a genius level IQ," she said.
Came my witty (though obvious) retort, "Some genius, if you couldn't get through high school."

At that point, she tried to explain why she dropped out of high school. It turns out the reason she quit was no better than, wait for it...

She hated high school.

"So what?" I challenged, "That's high school. Everybody hates it."
"No, you don't understand. I was miserable."
"Yeah, I get it. That's high school."
"But I was miserable and depressed."
"Yeah. You're a teenager. That's the universal experience."

I was fascinated. I actually met a "genius" who dropped out of high school. I just wish I could be there to taste the sweet schadenfreude when George Mason formally rejects her undergraduate application. Or when she's sitting on the sidewalk with a milk crate and some jerk decides to tell her why she should get a job.

They call me 'Quiet Girl'
But I'm a riot
Mary Jo Lisa
Always the same

1 comment:

Mike said...

In fairness, one of the smartest people I know dropped out of high school (albeit for completely different and much better reasons). Still, this girl's "I'm a genius" reasoning makes her sound more like a moron. She'll regret it. Most do.