May 28 2008
It’s very, very hard to feel sorry for this guy. Fine, he doesn’t look happy – life has clearly been hard on him. He’s obesely overweight, he’s aging badly, he’s got glasses that could be part of the Hubble Telescope. There’s something of Jackie Healy Ray about him. I would imagine that big clunky walking stick (hospital issue circa 1978) was the result of a war injury. He struggled to walk three feet in a minute and I’m sure I saw a tear come to his eye from the pain in his hip. Perhaps he needs a hip replacement but his name is a distant glimmer on the long HSE waiting list.
By the looks of his clothing, he is not homeless, but he clearly has no one at home to care for his attire. The suit he is wearing has long since ceased to be respectable and now just looks like a drab patchwork quilt. His shoes with odd laces definitely frequent the cobbler and he seems to be without socks. A glance at his shirt show the fading dignity of a man who still uses starch with varied degrees of success.
He is grunting. He’s not drunk, he is perhaps in some pain – breathing seems to be a struggle, perhaps due to his weight. I’m sure there is an abundance of health issues that are not evident on the surface and though he is maybe in his late fifties or early sixties, his withered hands are those of a man many years his senior. A life of hard manual labour and no concept of the modern man’s grooming regime, has ensured that his skin, his hair, his feet, his hands, will shrivel away in front of his eyes – they cannot be patched together like his suit.
He asks the lady sitting beside him for the use of her phone. This may be a sign of his poverty or it may be an indication that he cannot bring himself to embrace this modern mobile life, though it is clearly a necessity for him. He asks her to dial the number for him and is visibly shaken when no one answers. Is he late? Is he due to meet someone? Or is he just reaching out in the hope that someone will touch his life in some kind way? The woman apologises, puts her phone away and returns to her iPod.
So, why do I find it hard to feel sorry for this guy? A few stops before my final stop, he is ready to get off. He struggles to get up and hobbles forward. He takes his time, but the door is being held for him, so he can afford to. People move out of his way, myself included, but his does not stop him from sticking his industrial walking stick right on my foot and then conclude the endeavour by putting his full immense weight right on my already aching limb. Hours later, as I type this, my foot is still sore. Argh! I hate him! The git!