Saturday, November 8, 2008

Billy's back!

Downtown San Diego, like any city, hosts its share of bums. Considering the pleasant climate, I'm surprised there aren't more of them hanging around.

Last year, my nightly ritual consisted of driving home, stopping at the red light, and sitting awkwardly while Billy the Bum leered menacingly and comically a few feet away. I don't know his real name, but I nicknamed him "Billy" because I thought it had a nice ring to it.

Billy was a short, plump man who always wore a hat and a weird smile. He made strange guttural noises that stopped short of whole sentences. He was generally friendly but sometimes became a little too aggressive.

I noticed Billy because he was a marketing genius. He carried a double sided sign: one side read "Dollars please!" and the other side flashed "THANKS!" He even changed the lettering from time to time. Once, he outlined "THANKS!" in bright red tape.

After awhile, Billy stopped waiting on the same street corner. He slipped from my radar. Other bums took over the territory but it wasn't the same. They didn't carry appreciative signs or approach cars the way Billy did.

Yesterday, I was walking to work and I saw Billy peeking from behind a bus stop with the same sign and the same demeanor. I don't know why, but it made me smile.

I guess you never realize how much you appreciate people and things until they disappear and reappear. Maybe I just crave constancy, even at someone else's expense. Anyway, Billy's back and I wish him the best.

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