Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Hobo


At what I take to be a combination Halloween/Birthday party, circa 1968, all judging from the footage taken of the day, there I am, dressed as a hobo. I like the way I look; baggy coat, five o'clock shadow painted on, a derby hat. I might dash off to jump a train at any moment. I'm just there to cadge a bit of free cake.

And so was born my affection for hobos.

Would my affection for hobos hold up to encountering actual hobos? Maybe not, but I think they were already a nostalgic relic when I was dressing as one. My guess is that one can't have hobos without a gritty, vibrant train system, vital downtowns, and just a little bit of general cultural sympathy towards poverty. And so I've actually, come to think of it, never seen a real live hobo.

Until today!

I was at the front desk of the library. He came out of the elevator. He was dressed like a travelling businessman, but one terribly down on his luck. He was pulling a wheelie suitcase that was fairly well battered and one of the wheels didn't work exactly right. He had on a derby hat, maybe a bit too tight. He wore a rough blazer, two sizes too big. I don't think his shoes matched. He had perfect five o'clock shadow, and the rest of his face was either darkly tanned or stained with dirt, but probably both. He said something as he walked by, but I didn't catch it.

I said something back, but I didn't catch that either, even though I was the one who said it. He kept going. He was in a hurry I guess. The Great Northern line was coming through pretty soon and I reckon he hoped to hop it to Minot.

I wish him all the best.

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