Somewhat homeless.
written 2001-05-03 20:50:15

For a short time, right after college graduation, I was homeless. I wasn't
on the streets, mind you. I slept in my car and in closets and offices at
my old college. I broke into the gym for showers and spent a lot of time
hiding from administrators and rent-a-cops.

I could've swallowed my pride and crashed at a friend's place, and did
eventually, but I hate to impose, and honestly, it was sorta fun. That
goes to show what sort of influence a sheltered life like mine has on the
definition of "fun."

Like I said, I never had to resort to sleeping on a sewer grate, so take
that for what it's worth. When I found work as a hacker at Sales Vision,
the joke was that I was, by far, the most well-paid bum in Charlotte.

Little did I know at the time that I would be returning to my starting
position only a year and a half later.

Not long after my return from San Francisco, my roommate Daniel left for a
job in Raleigh, as a hacker for Epic Games. There was no way I could have
afforded my crappy, overpriced apartment alone, so when Daniel left, we
decided to break the lease. And good riddence; I had experienced my share
of sewage leaks, crumbling ceilings, and screaming kids. Daniel packed all
his stuff into two suitcases and hopped a plane for North Carolina. I
packed my stuff into Daniel's abandoned car and drove straight to Loki.

Once again, I was the highest paid bum in town.

As time dragged on, the car got sold and I had packaged my stuff to be
mailed to my parents' house. My car was sitting in Pennsylvania with a
flat tire, and I was starting to get tired of sleeping on a futon and
walking a few miles to shower at Bernd's apartment. When I started to make
plans to get my work done as fast as possible and then humbly bow out, I
was asked to go to Sweden, which is another story. For now, let me state
what I was asked versus what was meant versus what I heard:

...I was told...

"We have a very important deal that requires your skills in Sweden."


"We have a very important deal in Sweden, and you are the most expendable
coder left."

...sounded like...

"Hey, want a free trip to Europe?"

Needless to say, I signed right on.

In preparing for travel abroad, I have a standard ritual I always go
through. I fill my backpack up. I try to fill it with stuff I'll actually
be carrying, but anything with equivalent bulk and weight will do. Then I
put on my hiking boots, coat, hat...anything that I'd probably be wearing
as I wander around that foreign country. This is designed to be
preperation for the worst-case scenario; if I can't walk a few miles in
too-hot clothing with too much weight on my back now, then how would I do
it when I have no other choice?

This has, I am certain, saved my butt on more than one trip. If nothing
else, it reinforces the primary rule of travel: if you can't carry your
own luggage, no one else is going to either, so you damn well better know
your limitations.

There is, however, a big difference between theory and practice. In
theory, I was testing my limitations. In practice, I was a guy dressed for
winter in Sweden walking across Southern California with everything I
owned strapped to my back.

It must have looked comical. A guy in a Mercedes pulled over next to me as
I trudged down El Camino Real. He rolled down his passenger side window,
and I saw that he was a young, clean cut man with what seemed to me to be
a sense of wealth and style. He seemed the sort that would have been
instantly popular in just about any crowd. And he asked me:

"Hey, where are you going?"
"Uh, down the road," was my witty reply.
"Yeah, but where are you going TO?"

I still didn't understand, but at this point my assumption was that he was
some sort of chickenhawk trying to pick up a long-haired whiteboy.

"I'm just going down the road."
"Are you homeless?"
"No," I lied, badly.
"Ok, I just wanted to make sure you had somewhere to go. I used to live on
the street, so I wanted to make sure you had somewhere to go."
"Oh, well thanks."

"Take care of yourself," he said, nodded, and started to drive off.
Stunned by what I just heard, all I could manage to squeak out was, "hey,
wait!" He stopped, and looked out at me again with that super-popular
smile. In my bafflement, it took a moment to find a sentence.

"Are you really...concerned about me?"
"Yeah. Like I said, I used to live on the streets, so I just wanted to
make sure you were safe."
"Sir, that is the COOLEST thing I've ever heard."

I meant it, too. He gave me one more of those popularity smiles and sped
off, leaving me filled with thousands of unanswered questions.


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