I had a snarky two-liner FB post ready to go about how West Philly never lets me down. Then I had another 40 minutes to think about it on the drive home, and I remembered: the kyriarchy hurts everyone. And that sucks.
As I was heading out of Center City tonite, I saw the traffic up on 76 right before I hit the on ramp, so I hustled around 30th Street Station and headed out via Market/Walnut. Since I was already going to be passing it, I decided to stop for Crown Fried Chicken at 40th Street. So I parked, and then, for the first time in a long time, a homeless guy hit me up for change on the corner, and then followed me in to the store. And I made the decision that buying him fried chicken was probably an easier way to get him off my back than ignoring him while he continued to pester me. Especially since he was now in the actual store with me, and lord knows the CFC guys have their homeless interactions set to Ignore all the time.
So I bought him dinner and figured that was it. Only in his profuse thanks, he ended up cornering me outside the shop as well, and I honestly don't know if he was hitting me up for more money for a Septa token (probably yes) or just trying to talk to someone (probably also yes.) Because at this point, I had my City Girl Hankles up, and my general social anxiety kicking in, so making small talk with a homeless vet who was definitely not 100% there had me in full on Flight mode.
And so I was going to sarcastically thank you, West Philly, because of course you do this. But on the other hand, how much of this was me? In retrospect, the guy presented minimal danger to me. I'm just trained to Ignore All Strangers when I'm out. I bought him a meal, which cost me all of $4, which I definitely have to spare, and he most likely did not. And I could listen to him tell his story (VA hospitals dicking him around, which, whether or not that's true, is absolutely plausible), though, it's not like I'm actually at liberty to change that particular system any time soon.
Instead, I politely (maybe?) frantically (yes.) pretended to listen and shifted my weight a lot, and gave him my fake name and shook his hand more than once, and every time he said "Semper Fi," I glanced in all directions past him, maybe hoping that a magic warp portal would appear and I could disappear my way out of there. Was he off-kilter, or genuinely just excited to talk to a person who had done something kind for him? Was I legitimately in some sort of danger, or just gobsmacked by the awkwardness of forced small talk? Would this all be better (or just different?) if I didn't have to think that d-d-d-d-danger's out to find you, or if the fucking VA system didn't shit all over its patients on the regular?
TL;DR, I bought dinner for a homeless vet and felt really uncomfortable about it, and then spent the next hour thinking about the systems in place that bought us both to that specific situation and have nothing to show for it but this blog post.