Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 2 - Privacy/Solitude

Most people would lump privacy with solitude, and I guess they share a few things in common. But for me, they are two different things. Solitude is when I need to be alone with my thoughts; privacy is when people feel the need to interject themselves in whatever I'm doing.
That distinction made, being a writer who relies mostly on his imagination, I yearn to be alone with my thoughts at times. The only place to do this in the shelter is in the dorm. And even then, your chances of being interrupted are pretty high. Men come into the dorm talking, mostly to themselves, and have no idea or every idea how loud they are. Not just in talking, but in the others sounds they make. Too many of them will wear flip flops or other shoes/sandals that make a loud noise whenever they step. This is quite distracting to someone who just wants some peace and quiet.
Just last night and into this morning I had a migraine (more on health costs in a later blog), brought on by someone who decided to sing into a voice recorder and then play back his terrible singing over and over again. This was just before dinner, and I ate as quickly as possible and attempted to retreat into the dorm for a little quiet time, because noises in general tend to make the migraine worse.
But getting quiet time is impossible in a dorm setting. Flip Flop, Flip Flop, over and over again. There's one guy that I call the 'Sniffer' because he will sniff in over and over again, 20 times or more, an obnoxious sound that really makes my skin crawl. I've tried to tell him to blow it out rather than sniff it in, but he won't listen to me.
Anyway, trying to get quiet time in a dorm is like expecting spring to come to Alaska in January. Ain't gonna happen.
Privacy is another, similar issue, brought on by the fact that there are 300 men living in this shelter. For instance, I'm sitting at a table in the Dining Hall, typing on my computer or playing a game. I sometimes have a bottle of Mountain Dew beside me. One of two things will happen: Either someone, seeing the Mountain Dew and assuming I have money, asks me for 35 cents or a dollar. Mind you, I've never really met this guy. He's just someone in the shelter.
There is no law, written or unwritten, that says I have to give what little money I have to other residents of the shelter. I always, ALWAYS say no. That does not stop them from asking. Sometimes I think about putting a sign by my computer that just says 'NO!' But that would be 'uncooperative behavior.'
The second thing that happens is they make a comment about my computer. 'You got internet on that?' 'What you doing?' 'What game is that?' 'You writing?' 'Can I charge my phone on your computer?' It's endless.
When I do finally get my Cricket broadband card, I'm going to have to hide the fact that I have internet, or I'll have people wanting to check their email, or surf the web on my dime.
I had one guy just the other day who sat close to me, watching me type. I noticed he was scratching. Soon I was scratching. A shower had to be taken. I took mine, I doubt he took his.
And speaking along that line, when someone sits close to me and I can smell them, it's time for me to move. Thankfully that's not a problem at the library - most of the time. Yet the whole smell issue is something that is really hard for people outside of the shelter to grasp. Think of the scene in 'Trading Places,' where the girlfriend, waiting to bail out Dan Ackroyd's character, sprays a homeless guy with perfume (that's another health issue). Why people would want to smell like that is beyond me, but it is yet another cost of being homeless. Either you smell or the person who sits next to you smells. Are we having fun yet? NO!