March 26, 2005

Fun with Crazies

There is a free newspaper in Washington, DC, the Examiner. The newspaper folks pay homeless and poor people a couple of bucks to stand around metro stations and pass out copies to people walking by. Two of them are exceptionally interesting:

The Muslim Cusser. This woman stands at the entrance to my train station in a full-length black chador, the very-conservative Muslim dress. She looks very pious and modest in her black headscarf, which carefully covers every hair. You'd think she was the most perfect conservative Muslim woman. Then she holds out a paper and says, "This weather is a fucking pisser, ain't it? Have a newspaper."

The Catatonic. At the Franconia-Springfield metro stop, there is a man who holds papers. He doesn't actually pass them out, because he is a catatonic. For real. The man is an actual catatonic. He stands perfectly still in the center of the doorway, his arms held out, with a pile of newspapers on them, and people take one off the stack as they walk by. He's obviously homeless, and I've never seen him move. It's a bit embarrassing to walk up to a stranger and take something out of their arms without them ever moving or making eye contact, much less speaking. He's like a human bookshelf. I often wonder if the newspaper people actually pay him, or if they just put him in place three months ago and just refill his arms with papers twice a day.

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