We landed in Atlanta, touching down softly thanks to what must have been great skill on the part of the pilot. If the frantic flapping of the various surfaces on the wing and the side-to-side shifting of the ground relative to the plane were any indication, it wasn’t an easy feat. I immediately turned on my cell phone and alerted the Universe that I was safe.
The Universe appeared to be nonplussed, due, I am sure, to my detestable lack of fame.
Once the plane stopped at the gate, everyone leaped from their seats in order to be the very first to stand in line, which is an effort similar in level of futility to pressing an elevator button over and over when it’s already lit, or participating in heated political debates on Facebook.
It is always good to be home, and as I rode up an escalator behind a generously-proportioned woman wearing a shirt that proclaimed “Shootin Deers and Drinkin Beers, thats how we roll”, I knew I could only be back in my beloved South.
Once on the train platform, I enjoyed some people watching during my wait for the train. When a train arrived, transit employees appeared on the platform to shout that this train was out of service. It seems that the style among transit employees is to wear a great many beads in one’s hair. People boarded the train despite their admonishments, and were herded off with more shouts and waving and beads clicking together. We all went back to waiting and pretending not to look at one another.
After a while, a more in-service train arrived and everyone jostled aboard and found seats. I had probably a dozen stops to go, so I settled in for a lengthy passage with the Flaming Lips hooting in my ears.
After about three stops, a man boarded the train.
“I was trippin’ out there.” he proclaimed. “I saw about eight or nine rats out there. I’ve never seen them like that!”
There was an empty seat behind me, but he didn’t make for it, choosing instead to stand in the aisle by the door. I guessed that the floor show was about to begin, and with the Flaming Lips beeping and booping through “The Dark Side of the Moon” in my ear I thought it might make for a reasonably interesting combination.
“Let me have your attention, ladies and gentlemen,” the man said in a clear, articulate voice. “I am trying to get a place to sleep tonight. I am homeless. I’m not an alcoholic, I just want a bed for the night. I need nine dollars in order to stay at the shelter. I have about two collected already, and I’d appreciate anything you can do.”
He went on for a while, but I don’t think he had any takers. Possibly no one had any cash. This lead me to consider the idea I have for a charity that would distribute hand held credit card swiping machines to panhandlers so they can accept donations from people who don’t carry cash. They’d all have to get bank accounts which might be tough, but at least it would move panhandling into the modern age.
After a couple of stops, the well-spoken floor show got off our train and we rode on in silence. Except for me, of course, as Wayne Coyne was burbling some nonsense over shrieking guitars out of a tiny speaker not thirty millimeters from my eardrum.
That’s when the floor show mark two began. A gentleman stepped onto the train and assumed the same aisle position as the last.
“Ladiesh and jennelmen” he slurred. “I like to have attenshion please. I am HOMELESH!”
At this point he peered around, hands jammed down into his pockets, then continued. “I’m not alcoholic, I jush need a plashe to spenna night. I need twelve dollars to stay at the shelter, and I have got around 1.79 so far. PLEAZSH HELP!”
No one offered any money, and soon we got to another station.
Floor Show Mark Two lumbered off the train, nearly bumping into a kid in a day-glow green hoodie who was shouting “HAAAAAAY” merrily into a cell phone over and over. The kid’s cries echoed around the underground concrete station platform, and he skipped toward the stairs, seemingly having the time of his life.