When I got to him, I asked if he wanted something to eat. No response. I squatted down and briefly patted his arm. No response. He leaned forward to lift a faintly religious-looking necklace off his bowl and counted the bills or something then put the necklace back. I asked him again. No response. Assuming I might be interrupting his meditation or something, I got up and walked away again.
That’s when a tall, graying man asked if he was all right.
“I think so.”
“Was he disoriented?”
“No, just not responsive.”
If I thought it was a strange response, I soon forgot it as thoughts of my errand returned. Into the bookstore, down the narrow escalator, pausing to read the flap from Goldie Hawn’s memoir, skim the jacket of a short-term stripper’s memoir, finally back to the “Christian” section.
It was as I started scanning for the last name of my dream book’s author that someone interrupted me.
“Ma’am?” It was the man from the street again, looking faintly sheepish.
“I’m a New York City fireman, I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime — if you’re not married, that is.”
He sputtered something about kind people and handed me his number, scratched on what proved to be the corner flap of a cigarette box.
“Actually, I’m not really dating,” I said, then watched him go, wishing I’d had the sense to tell him why I really help beggars like the man on the street.
Now I wonder if I should call him for other reasons: I might soon be a felon. Or owe the state a grand beside the taxes I don’t plan on paying till they bill me (let’s just say 1099s weren’t exactly my friend this year). How this happened is that I sorta missed my jury duty summons Monday. It came a couple weeks ago: “telephone standby juror.” In this age of round-the-clock web stats and the grand inefficiency of the local unemployment office (judging from the day I had to report there), that sorta baffled me. What, you listen to the trial by phone?
No, apparently you call some number the night before to see if you have to report. This so they can potentially make not just one but two demands on your time. If you call and you have to report, that is. Which would be at 8:45 a.m. Yes, really. Before 9. Anyone versant with my sleep habits (these days I rotate between something like PCT or whatever they have in Hawaii) knows there’s no way I could be up that early, much less “dress[ed] in a manner that shows respect for these important proceedings” and out the door in time to reach some downtown Brooklyn court room. Before 9.
Since my summons was for a Monday, I’d have to call Sunday. Which I take as a sabbath (lately I’ve even tried resting from all email and internet; this really makes for a break, if almost from one’s adult umbilical cord). And I had a coffee date Sunday (not with a guy), plans to walk 4.2 miles north up Broadway from an errand (which I did), and church that night. Besides it made me angry, their intrusion on my sabbath. So ... I forgot. Not intentionally, accidentally.
I’m probably a felon.
Then again, judging from the thoroughness with which my work-search list was checked the one time I had to show how I was not just idly collecting unemployment, I probably don’t have all that much to worry about. If only the folks in the tax office* were a bit less perspicacious ... or do I mean assiduous? Well, never mind. I’m they fine jury felons like me so steeply half the vocab cells in your brain whither up at the shock. Maybe I should call that fireman after all ...
*There’s always my advance to pay them if need be, but that won’t come till August and I hoped to use it for other stuff. Sigh. Budgeting, budgeting ... wasn't that an elective once?