I saw the sign the man was holding as I slowed for the red light. I take note when the signs say something other than just "Will work for food" or "Trying to get home". This fellow held one that simply said "JUST PLAIN SCREWED" Plain, brief bold, it communicated his thoughts perfectly. I wanted to hand him a couple of bucks and tell him that I knew just how he felt. We are all "just plain screwed " in one way or another. I could not follow through on that. He had picked a place to stand that made it almost impossible to interact with him. He was outside a turn lane at the bottom of a ramp. Automobiles seldom stop moving at this intersection, not the ones in the turn lane. It might have been his last bad decision in a series of bad decisions. I'll never know. He didn't have the look of the dedicated panhandler. His clothes were not very dirty and they still fit. His shirt tail was in. He carried a back pack, but it was not a large one. I thought maybe he was a hitchhiker that just got put out or maybe one of those people that starts out driving from Raleigh to Phoenix with only enough money for gas and a little food and then the car breaks down and the nearest person you know is 500 miles away. I'll never know. You will never know. His day on the corner may have been a preemptive strike of sorts against permanent despair. I do hope he's far away now and hopefully somewhere he wants to be.
We will seldom admit it but I think we take some comfort in knowing that some people have it worse than us. Those people are easier to find now. When the traffic comes to a halt and the supply line is disrupted it becomes the worst that can happen if that's what you depend on to get through the day. We might hate having to be home all day but there is worse. Worse is wanting to be home and you can't be.