The Ph.D. and her pettiness


As long as you’re complaining
—     about     ANY     THING     —
you’re not doing what you can.

As remarked recently, I am almost never verbally insulted for being homeless.

The insults that do come are events at the clothes window, in the shower room at the shelter.

The mission serves two populations.  There are 60 of us “overnighters,” homeless guys who come one day at a time, must take all one’s belongings and leave by 7:00 in the morning, cannot come back until 14:30, and cannot use this as a mailing address.  Then  there are 500 “programmers,” enrolled in the 12-month residential drug treatment program.  They live here.

To keep programmers occupied with positive things, each one is assigned an unpaid job.  They call this “work therapy.”  Some work in housekeeping, some in maintenance, some in the kitchen (reputedly the hardest), some in the laundry.  Those in the laundry prepare the things we receive at the clothes window in the shower room.

Some of these men may have low self-esteem, or little pride in their work, or be careless or lazy — or think it’s important us homeless guys know and stay in our place.  In many ways, we are second-class citizens here.

So I may receive a “washcloth” that’s literally a rag, threadbare and worn-through, that really belongs in the trash.  Or socks that don’t match.  Or shower shoes (flip flops), two lefts or two rights instead of a left and a right.  It’s as if someone’s saying, “Never forget: you homeless.”  Isn’t my life hard enough without this?

As long as you’re complaining
—     about     ANY     THING     —
you’re not doing what you can.

I take things in stride:  the resources at hand may not be what I want, but they are what I’ve got.  I look on the bright side:  I use my time in the shower to hope and dream of having my own place, where I will use washcloths I bought and wear socks I bought.  I hold that such fantasies constitute prayer.

I also wallow in gratitude that this is, in fact, the best shelter in town, probably the best on the east coast:  it’s clean, it’s safe, the men behave; free of theft, free of bullying, free of vermin; and with really, really good food.  God grant the like to every homeless man — every one who will behave.

Dunkin’ Donuts owner calls police on woman who tries to use store’s free Wi-Fi

For two years, Tirza Wilbon White spent several hours every day in a certain Dunkin’ Donuts, doing whatever she pleased, and no staff member ever questioned her.

That changed on November 7, 2018.

“I had just sat down when a woman I had never seen before walked up and asked, ‘Are you going to buy coffee?’” White, 46, a former assistant professor at the University of Maryland and mother of two, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I told her I planned on buying coffee after I got settled, but not if it were mandated.”

Stop. Right. There.

White has thrown down the gauntlet.

The issue right now is White — and the rule.  And from all my study of this situation, the rule appears to be not that one must buy something in order to use Wi-Fi, but rather that one must buy something to remain in the store.

It is not yet about anyone else.  It is not yet about race, unless White has some issue with the race of the woman who questioned her, Christina Cabral, the owner, who is white.  Would a black owner have gotten the same response?

In recovery, we have a slogan, “Keep the focus on you.”  I have told the story of my own time as persona non grata at a certain McDonald’s (“Does McDonald’s discriminate against the homeless,” and comments thereon).  I complied with every direction I was given.  I never looked around to see if others were being dealt with the same as me.  (Make no mistake, I had keenly observed customer management at that store, and there was lots of room for improvement.  But it’s not my store; I don’t make the rules.)  In the end, it became clear that the store had a special set of rules that applied only to me.  But “me” is not a protected class.

According to White, the woman, who identified herself as a “quality control” official, gestured toward another black customer, saying that he had purchased food before using Wi-Fi. White responded by asking Cabral if a nearby white customer was held to the same standard, and Cabral ordered that she purchase coffee or leave.[**]

White approached Cabral and asked if only black visitors were required to make purchases to stay.

… Cabral sa[id], “Oh please. Don’t get into the racial profiling. It’s my family. I find that offensive.”

Here was Cabral’s first mistake.  Instead of jumping to conclusions, and effectively changing the subject, she should merely have answered the question.

After the women argue, Cabral picks up the phone. “You’re offending me,” she explains, dialing 911. “Because I’m not your skin color, you’re going to come at me that I’m racially profiling? I treat everyone the same … and now I am going to call the authorities because you’re recording me without telling me.” (Virginia is a one-party consent state).

This was Cabral’s second mistake.  However, she had already told White to leave; see the [**] above.

Places of business are private property, and one in authority can direct any visitor to leave, at any time, for any reason or no reason.  Once the direction is given, it’s not up for discussion.  If the visitor does not leave, he or she is trespassing.  Many black people seem not to understand this.

These teens were arrested for re-entering premises they’d been directed to leave.  They were black:

Black teens were allegedly kicked out of mall over no-hoodie policy, so 4 white women wore hoodies ‘just to see what would happen’

These teens were arrested for re-entering premises they’d been directed to leave.  They were black:

Chaos Erupts After Group Of Teens Refuses To Leave White Marsh Mall

One reads no such reports of white people.

Did Cabral engage in racial profiling?  We don’t know.  The only white people White saw were family members.

Cabral had called the police, and they came.

As long as you’re complaining
—     about     ANY     THING     —
you’re not doing what you can.

Will you, or will you not, get on with life?

I can be petty, too.  Years ago, I used to have minor coughing fits in response to some event that upset me.  On reflection, these irritants were so minor that I was embarrassed, actually ashamed, that I’d let them bother me.  The man I want to be is much bigger than that.  So, yes, I can be petty.  But I’m not the only one.

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