“You, uh, about to head in soon?” the man in his mid-50s asked me.
It was past 5PM on a warm day, and I hadn’t realized how the time had flown by while I waved my sign on the sidewalk.
“Yeah, just about.”
“We’ve, uh, talked a lot so could I ask you a personal question?”
He was shifting about, looking this way and that.
“Uh, well we’ve only spoken once before, but sure go for it.”
He held up his hands to emphasize his question:
“…What do you think of sex?”
“Could you be more specific?”
“What do you think of homosexuality?”
“Um… I mean, I’m not gay, I don’t really think about it one way or the other.”
“Okay, okay. See, I’m exploring my own… possible homosexuality… and I don’t know what to do!”
“Have you tried online?”
“Yeah I tried some $2.99-per-minute thing, that didn’t work.”
After a little more back-and-forth, the man shuffled up the street. I watched as he stopped to talk to a couple of kids hanging out by the sidewalk, presumably to run through the same dialogue. Later as I told the story to a couple co-workers, I remarked at how he was going about his exploration in a very odd, inefficient way.
That was one of the more unusual encounters I had while sign-spinning outside. Although, not so unusual that it was surprising. Not anymore.
I’d dealt with many people who were friendly… curious… bored… drunk… crack addicts… mentally ill… or some interesting combination of the above
Like the time two women walked down the sidewalk and one of them shrieked, “HEY!” before she lunged at me like a praying mantis. Shouting “What’s this?!” she whipped her arm right near my crotch, clawing at me and grabbing. I stumbled back, letting out a disgusted grunt that sounded something like, “Ewwwuugh” as she walked on, cackling.
It would have been nice to think she eagerly wanted to grab my genitals, but I’m pretty sure she was just reacting to the bulge of my phone and wallet in my front pocket.
Afterwards I vividly imagined myself standing in cleansing rainfall, and playfully focused on how everything was cool.
Then there was the time I turned around to see a car idling in the middle of the road. Sensing something amiss, I focused on the front seats to see two shirtless men punching each other over and over. Then, the driver dove out of the car and sprinted to the side of the road. The passenger jumped into the driver’s seat, pulled the door shut, and sped off.
For the first time in my life, I dialed 911 and told the operator what happened
She barely asked me for any detail.
The remaining man walked up the sidewalk towards me. As he got closer, I saw the splattering of blood on his chest. He said “How’s it going?” as he passed by.
“What’s up,” I replied.
He kept walking for another couple blocks before the police arrived. Apparently, he called them too because they ended up giving him a lift.
Most encounters were far more mundane than this, but I realized I was given a unique window to the behavior of men and women living on the bottom rung of society. I wanted the exact opposite for myself. So I observed their behavior in contrast to those I knew who made plenty of money.
The lower income folks on the street talked and talked and talked
I don’t recall a single one who genuinely listened to a word I said.
They spent time and energy complaining about whatever ensnared their mind, instead of actively working out or implementing a solution.
I’m sure they were caught in a spiral of “learned helplessness.” Life actually trained them to behave hopeless and in need.
All their traits floated in a cloud of irrationality. That’s why I like Peter’s emphasis on developing your rational thinking. I wonder if people think that conflicts with meditation, spirituality, manifestation, and luck. I don’t think so at all.
The destitute people I put up with on the sidewalk willfully refused to face their challenges with razor-sharp, pinpoint rationality, which (I believe) would generate the vibration of knowingness and deservingness they required to finally launch them out of the pit they were in.
But they were too busy whining, sulking, or praying for divine intervention that would never come
They were either making very little money, broke, or living off the government… yet they were experts at scrounging together cash for booze, drugs, or mindless entertainment. I can count with one hand the number of times I was sincerely asked about getting a job as a sign-spinner… and every single time, I gave them the info they needed.
It affirmed something I’ve always pondered and am still attempting to put into words: Embrace rationality as much as you give in to a force greater than yourself which guides you. Because there is no dichotomy. If you think or feel there is, you’re either misjudging rationality or mistaking the pinball machine of your emotional barriers for a spiritual path. That’s the way I see it… for now…
Like I said before, these were folks on the bottom rung. None of them is around to hear my lecture. But whenever I think like this, I always turn things around and ask myself how I’m doing a version of what I’m decrying. Because I learned we’re all facing the same inner challenges – we’re all the same in that regard – just with differing extremes and subtleties.
So whenever something needles me, I treat it as a signal
As a result, I’ve nearly wiped complaints from my verbal communication. And I’m almost done doing so from my thoughts. There’s just one remaining category that I’m working on, and it’ll evaporate soon. I suspect there are many subconscious complaints looping like crazy – I’ll deal with them as well. During my time as a sign-spinner, I eliminated all unnecessary spending. But what defines unnecessary? I could have taken it further, like living out of my car, but didn’t.
I worked on my listening skills.
Before, during, and after my bankruptcy, I never stopped my entrepreneurial efforts. If anything, I sped them up. Heck, I even took steps to build my business credit while my personal credit was getting the ole heave-ho, which I found pretty funny. I also made attempts to upgrade my day job.
In fact, within months of moving to a new apartment, my career took a surprising turn
I’ll write about that soon.
My interactions outside, however, were minor compared to the relationships I’d develop with my co-workers. It was a shocking learning experience for me, to see how behavior and beliefs molded reality. Never before in my life did I possess so much awareness to see patterns of cause and effect. More so, never before in my life did I also have such an open heart, that the people around me would touch it in ways I’ll cherish forever…