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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No Matter How Bad You Think You Have it, Someone Has it Worse

Yesterday I left work early because I was feeling under the weather. I was supposed to leave to catch the 12:10pm train but my boss needed me to do one last thing before I left. I ended up leaving my office at 12:10pm but I knew if I didn’t leave then, I’d also miss the 1:10pm train because I was wrapped up in another project. I hopped on the T and went to North Station to wait for my train.

I got to North Station and there weren’t many people there. However, there was one person on each of the benches and one bench was free. I took it and waited. A few minutes later a guy sits down next to me. He says “I’m sorry. I need to sit down to eat my pizza. I hope you don’t mind.” I moved my purse to my lap. This conversation threw me for a loop and it made me realize that no matter how bad I think I have it (being sick, chaotic schedule) someone else has it far worse!

This man was wearing what I call “dad jeans”, a Patriot’s sweatshirt, dingy white nike’s with bright white socks and a baseball cap that was clearly a freebie. He looked to me like he was older than my dad. He was aged and weathered. His cheeks looked burned from the sun.

“Thanks for clearing me a seat. I appreciate it.” He says to me grateful that I didn’t tell him to go away.
“No worries. I’d want to sit if I had a great slice of pizza too.” I reply.
“How are ya doin’ today?” He says.
“Doin’ ok. How about you?” I reply back.

This is what throws me for a loop. He looks pretty normal. He says “I am horrible. Just horrible.”
I think I hear him wrong but reply anyways “Well, you’re enjoying a slice of pizza. It can’t be that horrible.”
“Well, I’ve had it.” He says and turns to me to look me dead in the eyes. “I have had it.”
I don’t even know what to say. So, I say nothing.
“You see.” He goes on. “I have made a lot of bad decisions in my life that have led me to a dead end. I have no family. No friends. I am here in this city alone. I am technically homeless. If it doesn’t get better, I am going to take my life.”

I am floored. Take his life? Really? I am a complete stranger and he is telling me he is going to kill himself. “I am sure things will get better. They always do. Don’t give up.”  

“You’re right.” He says. “I just got approved to live at a shelter. I get a room tomorrow. I’ll give it to the end of the week. Then, I have a prescription that if I take the whole bottle and wash it down with tequila I won’t feel a thing. That’s how everyone wants to go. Not feeling a thing.”

“I don’t ever want to go to be honest. I really hope you don’t do that. There is light at the end of your tunnel and getting housing is just the beginning for you.”

“What do you do?”
“I am in investment banking.”
“See, you were smart and went to college and took the right path. I didn’t and I chose not to and I am paying for it now. This economy looks at my resume that is as wholly as Swiss cheese and they turn me away. I just need that one somebody to give me a chance. I am 51 years old. I can’t go to school now.”

Shocked that he is younger than my dad and now realizing that maybe some of those bad decisions he was talking about were maybe drugs and alcohol. “That’s when you start your own business. And it is never too late to go back to school and I know this economy is in the dumps right now but there is hope. There is an election coming up and this economy may not change over night but it will.”

People around us who were doing cross words before this conversation started are now only pretending to do the cross word. People who were reading before this conversation started haven’t flipped a page in a while. They are all tuned in.

The loud speaker goes off “…. Train to Haverhill now boarding” This isn’t my train but a guy sitting across from me who has large muscles and is wearing dark jeans and a fitted long sleeve T and work boots is getting up to board it. He mouths to me “Are you ok?” I nodded that I was fine. I had already had my eye out and have located the closest MBTA police. It was so nice of that man to look after me before he left.

“That’s not your train is it? I’d hate to keep you.” says the man next to me. He takes a huge bite of his pizza and closes his eyes to savor it.
“No, that’s not my train. I am heading towards Lowell. They will call it in a few minutes I bet.”
There is a brief silence while he finishes chewing. I look around and everyone’s eyes are on us. As I look around everyone tries to rebury their heads into what they were pretending to do in the first place.
“1:10 Peee Emm train to Lowell now boarding on  track 8” says the loud speaker.
“That’s your train.” He says as I start packing up my things. “Thanks for talking to me. You really made my day. Tomorrow I get my housing and start fresh. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. I wish you the very best. I really hope you don’t do what you talked about earlier because I know it will get better for you.”

I walk toward my train and all eyes were on me. I didn’t care. All I can think of was that this guy was probably savoring his pizza as if it was his last meal. I really hope I helped him not want to kill himself. I couldn’t believe it. Someone that was at his wits end sits next to me and spills his guts to me, a perfect stranger. It was eye opening for me. I sat on the train eating my trail mix and sipping my ginger ale in a daze. For some people it really comes down to taking their own lives. This economy needs to hurry up and get back on track because people are starting to lose hope.

Remember, no matter how bad you think you may have it, someone else probably has it much worse. There is always light at the end of the tunnel and there is always sunshine after rain!

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