9.25.2006

Loiterer's Freedom Lobby

There is no activity on God's green earth that I enjoy more than loitering in downtown Olympia.

As I have explained before, downtown Olympia is not only a safe and beautiful place. If you sit on a corner long enough doing nothing, something interesting inevitably happens. Usually it happens in the form of someone talking to you. It might be someone who you see all the time but have never talked to. Or it might be someone you do business with regularly. Or it might be a street person.
Most street people are interesting to talk to, and often they are not accustomed to being listened to for very long. Given the opportunity, they will often talk at some length. I've had conversations with street people about politics, parenting, spirituality, animals, love, money, homelessness, you name it. I couldn't really generalize what these conversations have been like, because they have been various and numerous. Sometimes they have been profound. Sometimes they've been bothersome. Sometimes they have been hilarious. But usually if I converse with anyone I don't know, I find out something interesting about them, and the homeless are no exception to this.
One time I was on the bus and the man across from me kept talking crazy. He kept telling me these vague, grandiose things and I just kept smiling and nodding. He didn't seem to add up, as far as I was concerned. He told me he could tell me how to get a million-dollar education for free. "Oh yeah?" I humored.
"Yep, " he promised. "You can learn from the greatest doctors, scientists, historians, professors, brilliant writers, the greatest minds in the world-all for free. You can learn to write poetry, you can study the universe..." etc., etc.
"M-hmm."
This went on for fifteen minutes.
"I'm serious," he said. "You want to know the secret?"
"Sure." Let loose with it already...
"The library. All the greatest minds in the world have their knowledge contained in books. You can read these books for free. It is the greatest education available."
I smiled, a little stunned. F-ing brilliant.
Often if you listen long enough, street people will come around to telling you about their troubles, and why it is they are on the streets. I have been brought to tears many times listening to Vietnam vets' tireless rantings, or listening to young teenagers eloquently describe lives too horrific to belong to someone so young. The stories usually involve heartbreak, death, abandonment and/or unspeakable violence. You can learn about all the ugly underside of our society by listening to these stories. You may have never known that there was so much bad fortune in this great country.
These stories are very important. The people who are on the streets can map the ills of our society with perfect clarity. If lawmakers spent more time loitering and taking notes, I have no doubt we'd have a more just, more sane, and more peaceful society.
But instead they want it outlawed. They want to outlaw my right to a pasttime that is sacred to me: My right to sit around in busy places and do nothing. I'll be goddamned if any politician is going to tell me that we have no right to freely assemble and lay idle. Does only busyness belong in downtown? Would they have no haven for meditation, introspection, or shooting the shit?
The city lawmakers responsible say they want quality of life in Olympia, but clearly they have no idea what quality of life looks like. Because loitering is a major player in quality of life. What is a life of quality with no empty hours, no wandering, no picnicking, no daydreaming, no benches?
Loiterers, arise. If there is one time not to loiter, it is this week. Our constituency must take action to protect our way of life. Please come to the city council meeting at city hall this Tuesday at 7pm, and especially make a strong showing at the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday September 28th at 5:30pm at the Olympia Center. (Arrive on time for the free pizza and loitering hour.)

1 Comments:

Anonymous Sarah said...

Count me in on the loitering. We experienced loiterers can even teach by example some of the newer perhaps more stressed potential loiterers.

We all can sometimes congregate too. We might even tell jokes. Possibly even hold a sign, or a newspaper, or a book.

Imagine.

7:42 AM  

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