I walked into the Courtyard Cafe this morning wearing my running shoes with spikes on. We need to wear spikes around here to walk comfortably in the treacherous snow. My ordinary shoes were slung across my shoulder as usual.
I asked a worker here if the spikes were creating dimples in the hardwood floor. He said they probably were. I mentioned that I hadn’t been in Idaho for very long, and I was still getting used to all this stuff.
Suddenly, a lady sitting across the way asked me: “Are you homeless?”
“No, I’m not,” I replied. “But I’m curious. That’s an odd question. People don’t generally ask me if I’m ‘homeless.’ What prompted you to ask that? Is it the way I look? The beanie? The beard?”
“No,” she said, possibly lying.
See that guy to the right? That’s how I look. This is my most recent look, after having lived for just about a year and a half now, here in Idaho, after escaping twelve years of on-and-off-again homelessness (mostly “on”) in a State I hope I never have to set foot in again, quite frankly.
“You’re dressed like every other guy in this town,” she continued, possibly telling the truth.
(I did notice upon moving to this particular city that just about every man in my age group wore a beanie or cap, had a beard, and usually carried a backpack. It made it easy on me. Nobody assumed I was “homeless.”)
“You said you were new in Idaho, so I thought you might have been homeless. I’m sorry if I offended you.”
“No, you didn’t offend me at all,” I clarified. “Nothing wrong with being homeless. I just wondered what it was about me that got you to think so.”
She drew a breath. “A lot of people who are new to Idaho were homeless in another State. It’s because here, people are just people. They don’t judge you for being homeless in a place like this. They don’t think of you as a scum bag or a loser. They just figure you’re down on your luck – and they try to help you out.”
“Are you homeless?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, looking a bit puzzled.
She then walked to the counter and came back with a breakfast for me in a to-go box.
“Merry Christmas,” she smiled — and walked out.
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