Mike ~ Stranger #15
I've often thought that, if there is such a being, God must have a twisted sense of humour...how else to explain the hurdles and bizarre “lessons” he puts in your way as you travel through life?
Feeling not a little depressed about the stuff going on in my life right now I decided to take a drive over to the Short North, indulge in a little retail therapy and hopefully buy the the missus a Christmas present. Hopefully, I'd break out of this mood whilst I was there, but the big guy obviously had different ideas. I'd only got as far as downtown when the car started to knock and shudder and rock and roll when I hit the breaks. Initially I thought perhaps something might have been dragging along the ground, or snagging the wheels so I pulled over to check. Naturally though it couldn't be as simple as that.
I decided to head home, but thought I might as well stop there for a short while and see if I could take my daily photo. And that's where I met Mike.
Mike is 63, a Columbus native and a veteran. It was only around 26º and I got the impression he may well have been wearing all the clothes he owned but he was clean shaven and bright eyed. He was selling “Street Speech” from his patch the corner of 3rd and State: he told me that he'd been homeless for 6 months now.
Obviously, Mike tries to sleep in shelters now that the weather is so inclement but, with the sheer amount of homeless people around and the fact that there are only three shelters in Columbus, that's not always an option. Every night it's first come first served at the shelters and you must be there at 8pm if you want to even stand a chance. He told me that if the temperature drops below 28º then they will give out mats and let you sleep where you can on the floor. I asked him if the Vet's organization couldn't help at all, to which he replied that “it's not that simple”. I was too cold by now to pursue the matter but he did say that he was hoping to sort out a room through the YMCA, which would cost $50 a week, and that the money he raised through “Street Speech” would help him in his quest to get off the street.
Freezing by now, I took my photo, we shook hands and I ran off to the comfort of my (knackered) car. As I pulled away, I could see Mike stamping his feet on the ground and trying to interest the few people foolish enough to venture outside in his paper.
The car knocked, rocked, stuttered and shuddered slowly homeward, giving me plenty of time to ponder my “lesson” and shortly I was in my warm home, with my warm drink and my warm life, nowhere near the potential rock bottom that had just been revealed to me. I wonder though at the cruelty of such a lesson: why it's necessary for Mike to have such a tough life just to show me how terrific I really have it?
This picture is number fifteen in my "100 strangers" project. find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at www.100Strangers.com
It's also number 272-365 in my iPhone 365 project