So I know this wasteman guy for a few years, right? I mean he’s been through something, it’s obvious, he’s down on his luck like. He’s seen better days, if you get me. The prime’s behind him. But his head is held high. He’s well mannered, he’s politely conversational, he’s smart. A real endearing character. He speaks of his past, when he was in a prominent position, and I believe him. I’m not totally sure, because I’m thinking what did this dude do to wind up on this kind of path, but on the other hand I’m wondering if that’s just me, searching for blame, being suspicious and distrustful. How else do you judge character?
Then one day I hear him talking on the phone to his kids and I give him the benefit of the doubt. This was a genuine stand-up guy. But what’s with the wasteman look? (I first heard the term WASTEMAN in a cockney drug dealer movie a year or so ago, and laughed when someone said it on the streets of Widnes who I know doesn’t watch movies.) It’s urban lingo and refers to any scruffy person who doesn’t look the part: a bum, a tramp, or whatever. This guy fits the bill and then some. I’ve seen him off and on over the last few years and never in anything new. Old stuff is one thing, but dirty stuff is another. I’ve seen him in dirty stuff too. The same old dirty stuff. I think that anyone could buy a few items from a charity shop for buttons if they were ever so desperate. Any new cheap look beats any well-worn-in-need-of-a-wash-wardrobe.
So times are tight. Don’t some of us agree. But how can someone look so bad and yet be so charming, upbeat, chatty, and apparently happy? He always says hello in the same way – as if he just won the lottery. Maybe he spends every penny on booze, I’ve wondered, which keeps him in a cheery mood. Or maybe it’s an elaborate act, a benefit scam. Who knows.
He always has a bag for life with him. A bag is essential for any hustling hoarder. Tonight I saw him at a bin before nightfall on a moderately busy road, possibly transferring the contents of the bin into his own bag for life. I couldn’t be certain, because I didn’t want to look too closely. It was wholly uncomfortable. Is he, I thought, is he really? I didn’t want to believe it, but he sure as hell wasn’t working for the council.
When you’re flying, and you see people sinking, you feel as if you’re separated by a thousand miles in the sky. When you’re in the troughs yourself, and you see people sinking, it feels like you are sinking with them.