Friday, July 22, 2005

Truth In Lending

I started to put this in the comments, but it's a good memory, so up top it goes.

A long long time ago, when I was in the Navy, I was stopped on the streets of San Francisco by an old guy who asked me for money. Normally I just wave panhandlers off. But this guy looked familiar, like an old uncle that you last saw when you were a kid. Not grungy or weird or smelly, just an old tired guy down at the heels. So I asked him what he wanted the money for, food?. "No, I don't need food," he answered straightfowardly. "I can get food at the shelter. I just want a cold beer." It so happened that we were standing in front of a small bar (coincidence?). It was late in the afternoon, and I was on my way nowhere special with a pocket full of liberty. Just for the hell of it I said, "Well, old timer, the beer's on me" and invited the guy into the cool darkness of the little joint, where it turned out he was both well known and well liked. I wound up talking to him and his bar-fly buddies over cold Anchor Steams for a couple of hours. I bought the rounds, as these guys were pretty thin. It turns out that my friend was a merchant seaman for like a hundred years. He sailed the Murmansk run during WWII ( a deadly voyage) and had the scars to prove it. Not one, but two ships were torpedoed out from underneath him, and for each he carried tattoos stating the name of the ship, the date sunk, and the names of his mates that didn't make it.
He was old and forgotten when I met him, living in the seamans' home and begging passers-by for change for a cold beer. But listening to his tales brought sparkles to his eyes and tears to his cheeks. That old gray head carried stories and memories that would have filled a dozen adventure books. And I got them all for the price of a few beers and a little of my time.

All these years later, I still think buyin' that guy a beer might have been the best investment I ever made.


Pile On® said...

I don't have much patients for phony research or phony researchers.

KJ said...

The only street begger I ever gave money (as opposed to food) to was one who told me he was going to buy cigs. I didn't think he was lying to me.

portia said...

Wonderful story, spd. A non- descript afternoon that would have been forgotten like so many that passed before but for a simple kindness that changed someone else's day--and yours--and all the ones to follow. It makes me smile to hear stories that put to lie the aphorism "no good deed goes unpunished." We need more of them.

spd rdr said...

It was important.

portia said...

I've only been away a day...when did that happen? Did you take a vote?

spd rdr said...

This ain't no stinkin' democracy!
It's to celebrate my meteoric decent to the bottom of the blogmogrosphere! Trust me, the crater is something to behold.

portia said...

I think those TTLB folks are gaslighting you spd...the system now says that you've risen--overnight--to the ranks of slimy mollusc. Congrats?