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Strange Skills

I often marvel at the unique ability of human beings to adapt to any circumstance. But not only that, to thrive in it. This was made most evident as I was walking down the streets of Los Angeles. Not a terribly nice neighborhood, but not a terribly bad one either. I ventured into a local grocery store, and on the way in I passed a homeless man. The homeless man asked me if I had five dollars. I said no.

            I am not intending to make light of LA’s homeless problem. It is a major, major problem and I have tremendous sympathy for those experiencing homelessness. I have no idea what the solution to the problem might be, and I wish I could have done more than just decline giving this man any money. I’m sorry. I offer no solutions, but I’m not mocking this man either. In fact, this post is entirely about praising this man and his unique trait.

            As I left the grocery store, I passed this same man going the opposite way on the sidewalk. As we met, he tilted his head and spat on my shoe. He did it so quickly, and without pausing, just a quick tilt and spit and never broke his stride. The spit was sizable too. It wasn’t a loogy. And he didn’t sniff or hawk before he spat either. There was no visible preparation at all. Just a quick spit. Plus, he hit me right on the toe of my shoe. Had he spat in my face, or really anywhere on my physical body, I would have gotten upset. I’d have been justified in screaming about this man, maybe even enough where this person would be at risk of getting arrested. But if I screamed at him for spitting at me and a police officer saw what happened, I’d be told it was just my shoe, there was no justification for getting upset. To top it all off, he did it in such a way that he could reasonably say that he wasn’t trying to hit me at all, that he had aimed for the ground and hit my shoe on accident.

            But oh, it was intentional. And yet, I wasn’t upset at all. In fact, I had to stop, awed with what this man had done. He had harmed me in a way that could not ever be paid back without me being labeled the instigator. He had gotten me back for not giving him any money in such a perfect way that rather than be upset, I was impressed. Laughing, I simply found something to wipe off my shoe and carried on.

            How many hours, days, weeks, did this man spend perfecting the art of the punishing spit? How much effort did this take? This man was down on his luck, no doubt suffering from all sorts of unfortunate circumstances, but he has one superpower that at least allows him some satisfaction against the world. So bravo, Mr. Spitter. Because of you, I have more respect for those experiencing homelessness. And because of you, I will never wear sandals in Los Angeles.