Friday, February 4, 2011

The Bums

This town seems to have an inordinate amount of bums. I see them everyday, as well as smell them. They are pervasive and unavoidable and they all want to incessantly yammer at anyone within earshot. Lighting a smoke in any public space attracts them like moths to the flame. Some will get angry for refusing to give them a smoke or some specific amount of change " You got 73 cents?"

Others are really crazy and will get angry for no reason and at no one in particular. Some are drug  addicts, and the rest ; who knows. The bum life seems to have created a culture of its own. I have observed speech patterns, mannerisms and ways of thinking that are specific to the bum.

I'm not sure how a lot of these people ended up as bums, but let's say that you just spent 5 grand on a motor for your hot rod, you could easily wind up being a bum. Or you could consciously decide to become a bum, or maybe you just like the outdoors.

Here is a guide to bum behavior, including all the necessary skills required to become a bum. It could be useful for the average city dweller for how to spot bums and easily avoid them.

1. Bumwear.

The essentials for the modern bum are pretty much the same for all bums; A scruffy baseball cap worn way low, pale jeans, some crappy sneakers usually found in the trash, a windbreaker with a corporate logo or expensive rain gear stolen from a construction site. Clothing must be kept as filthy as possible and bonus points for outwardly visible skidmarks.

2. Bum Transportation.

The transportation of choice for the bum is the bicycle. Usually these are broken down mountain bikes from the 80's that have been stolen at least 6 times. The rear brake ( and the front as well for the more brazen bums) must be disconnected and the seat must be as low as possible.

Many stores now have shopping carts with magnetic locks that jam the wheels if the cart crosses the threshold of the parking lot. This has left many bums without a means of scavenging, so they have taken to stealing bike trailers, the kinds that are used to carry kids. Some really resourceful bums sometimes have 2 or 3 in a row; a sort of bum convoy if you will.

These trailers are used mainly to carry beer cans, pop cans or shit that they have stolen from your place. Some bums are aware of the value of aluminum, stainless and copper and will go great lengths to obtain it. Some lack the basic knowledge of electricity and a few of them get fried every year as they try to steal copper from a live 10,000 volt transformer.

Many just mooch rides on public transportation and leave a lingering odor upon their exit, not after having annoyed half the passengers with pointless conversations.

3. Bum fights.

Bum fights are not regular fights. There is much screaming and flailing but little punching. Bum fights can erupt over something as innocuous as access to a dumpster. I enjoy bum screaming, I once smacked a bum in the back of the head as I passed him on my bike. His bike was too shitty to catch up and howls and screams ensued, much to my amusement, and to passing motorists as well. Every bum needs a good smack once in a while.

4. Bum Accommodations.

Anywhere will do, but some of them must be good at hiding, because you rarely see them. Some sleep on old couches abandoned in alleys. Some sleep in dumpsters and end up at the local dump. Some seem like zombies and never, ever sleep. I had a friend who once told me a bout a bum who had taken up residence in the hatchback of his car. Like a 90 pound cockroach he kept coming back, and was hard to get rid of.

Back east, some bums have taken to burrowing into snow banks, unaware of the impending arrival of enormous snow blowers cleaning city streets. It happens almost every winter, some unsuspecting snow blower operator will occasionally stream some red snow.

5. The Snot Rocket.

Bums must master the art of the snot rocket. It is like dogs marking their territory. If the bum screams something like " Yaaa-aargh!!" as he shoots the snot rocket, this will scare other bums, possibly making him the alpha-bum.

6. The Brown Paper Bag.

These are getting easier to find, due to new green rules. This simple item is useful for drinking in the park to conceal booze. It may also be used to take a shit in. Bums prefer plastic bags to carry the flotsam and jetsam that they tote around with them everywhere they go.

7. Booze.

If they have sold enough cans, they can usually purchase one those enormous beers with a screw top. If the picking wasn't so good maybe a bottle of Aqua Velva. Some shoplift booze, but many of them do it when they are hammered, so they get caught every time and end up in jail for one night.

8. Bum Art.

Some try to sell bum art. Most of it is bad and some of it is downright frightening, because it was drawn by someone who obviously psychotic. Others try to engage people's attention with lame attempts at magic tricks or really bad jokes.

9. Bum Time.

Why do bums always ask people what time it is ? They are always desperate to know what time it is and hurriedly continue on their way once someone gives them the time. What's the rush? Is there some sort of secret bum meeting that he will be late for ? I just don't know.

10. The Bum Sob Story.

Some bums are a little more creative in their mooching and come with various, and obviously false, scenarios. One particular bum that I see, has a different story everyday. He needs to get his dog to another town, he can't find his keys, he needs to take a Greyhound bus. Others have long convoluted tales used as subterfuge to extract some spare change from you. A while back a bum told me, "it's for alcohol, I swear." That was pretty funny , so I gave him some cash.

11. Bum Fires

Bums occasionally start fires to cook rats, squirrels and crows. Most that are smart enough to start that fire, ain't smart enough to put it out. They will often start the fires under wooden structures. Two major fires happened here recently as one bum burned an entire pier and another bum burned a wooden section of a bridge that is a major thoroughfare.

12.Bum Food.

The 10 second rule usually applies if some hapless individual drops a slice of pizza on the sidewalk. The bum will scoop it up. Even if it's face down. Bums also love 7-11. They can shoplift with impunity are are not intimidated at the underpaid clerks that yell at them. They also like to grab a bunch of those sugar packets that they have for coffee, huge globs of that liquid cheese for hot dogs and pickle slices.

11. Bum Dialect.

Bums have their own street jargon. It's inarticulate and grammatically deficient patter always rings the same, whether north or south of the border, it all sounds alike. I'm not sure if it is due to lack of teeth, burnt out brain cells or just plain old psychosis, but bums from Memphis to Montreal all sound the same, and all end phrases with "Eh?". And should you have the misfortune of making eye contact with the bum, he will immediately attempt to engage you in an energy sucking bum-conversation.

I often wonder, however, why every single bum has been able to master the fine art of the loud whistle, while I still can't. They have also mastered the none-too-subtle art of the really-fucking-loud across the street conversation. All that gasoline huffing must have increased the size of their vocal chords ten-fold.

The real crazy bums have mastered the incomprehensible subtleties of  self-conversation. Their invisible alter-ego either seems to agree with them or antagonize them, the latter resulting in crazed fits of extremely loud gibberish. I once saw a bum angrily yelling into a pay phone, his red face denoting approaching apoplexy. I thought maybe some beer can deal had gone bad, only realize that the phone cord wasn't connected and just dangling.

There is a particularly insane bum in my 'hood who has a sock puppet that speaks in a guttural  pseudo-language, only slightly more demented than his master.

12. Bum Tunes.

Bums always seem to have an abundant supply of crappy portable radios. They rarely have access to batteries to power said radios, and if they do , it is usually some almost dead Duracells that they have found in the trash. They will insert these batteries into these devices and proceed to play them in public. The 99 % percent distortion that these produce and the subsequent annoyance factor that they are sure to invoke on an unwilling person within earshot is only superseded by the musical content; bums all seem to have a preponderance for classic rock.

They all seem to instinctively find the local classic rock station on the dial. To add to the already unbearable cacophony, some of the bums enjoy croaking along off-key to the endless barrage of Led Zep tunes.

Some bum observations.

No comments:

Post a Comment