I was already showered and getting dressed for work when my alarm started going off. It was a little after 6:30; the sun wasn’t quite up. With no urge to make breakfast I put on my coat and headed out the door, hoping to get some work done and maybe have an early day.
I walked down the hall and opened the interior door (the one that requires a key to enter). There in the foyer of the building, against the wall beneath some of the building’s mailboxes, a man slept. My first thought was that an unfortunate tenant had locked himself out the night before. His head rested on a duffel bag. He stirred when I got near, so I held open the door. He turned his face towards the light in the ceiling. He was old. He had a white beard and red blotchy skin; he had pock marks and sores on his cheeks and forehead. He could barely get his eyes open (he may not have actually been awake). His face bore agony without the strength to moan. He seemed brittle, on his last legs, and his apparent lack of strength seemed to have very little to do with sleeping on a floor in a strange building. I didn’t want to stare, so I looked away and let the door shut behind me. Without a mutter between us I stepped out into the parking lot.
I texted my landlord as I waited for my car to warm up:
- There’s a homeless dude in the foyer.
I pulled out of the lot and headed for work. On the drive I wondered how else I could have handled the situation. I could have told him to leave. I reasoned: what if a tenant came down, and the man got into the building, or hurt someone? I reasoned that I could have given him a few bucks, told him to get some food, and escorted him out of the building. I could have called the cops. Or, I could have done nothing, just as I did.
It’s been said that indifference is worse than hate. Hate requires effort; indifference requires that you pretend that which you’re indifferent towards doesn’t exist. The latter is easier because it requires no emotional investment. It doesn’t even require pity.
I got to work and the office was empty. Only the hum of the servers filled the hall near my office. I logged into both my computers (one for regular work, one for video editing and animating). I checked my email, read a handful of webcomics, and went to work. I bounced from project to project, trying to maintain focus on one at a time. I had a Snickers bar when I got hungry.
At around two o’clock my landlord texted me back:
- Did you tell him to leave?
- No, I didn’t know what to do. I walked past him and went to work.
- Tell him to leave next time. Thanks!
The day had its ups and downs. Other than the Snickers bar I ate nothing, I chose not to eat lunch. The idea of opting out of a necessity – a common model in the workday of a lot of Americans – suddenly strikes me as a luxury; though, I do not want to juxtapose this against the man in my doorway from this morning. It is a fact that he scrounged and begged in order to eat today, if he ate at all. I drove a car to work, and could just as easily have driven it to any restaurant in the city and eaten whatever I pleased, with little to no effect on my wallet. I chose not to.
A few neighbors were outside as I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment.
“Do you ever see homeless people in the foyer in the mornings?” I asked.
“This morning we did. Not in a few years, though,” the one man said.
“I saw him, too,” I responded, “but, I didn’t do anything. I just kinda walked around him and went to work.”
“That’s what we did,” the man said.