Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Man In the Van

I wrote this quite some time ago. Somehow, it got buried in draft mode, but I still find it to be an important question I ask of myself.

Just needed a place to get this out.

I believe there is a man living in our garage. In his van. Or someone's van. I believe he used to be my next-door neighbor with a bunch of other ski bums (I use that term lovingly--bc that is really their lifestyle. Work odd jobs all summer, ski and snowboard all winter) who basically got kicked out a few months ago. The van is still in our community garage, and my husband and I have over the past few months noticed evidence that there must be someone living in it.

I saw him again today when I came home from a play date. Though I rarely see him, he was as nice as always, we said hello to each other and quipped about how cold it has been lately. I could see inside the van (it is one of the white 1970's Dodge hippie vans) that he had a side table with a coffee mug on it and bedding on the floor.

One part of me feels like I should report him to the condo association. What if he is an unsafe person? But the stronger part of me says who am I to get him booted from the only shelter he obviously has? What is the difference if he used to live next door to us in the apartment, and now he is living next to my car? There are very few people who even live in our condoplex. Most of them are empty save a few weekends a year.

I just feel bad for the guy. Sometimes I feel like I should bang on the door and offer him a cup of coffee, but being the mom of two little ones all by myself during the day--I don't really want to get involved. I don't mean that to sound harsh or that I don't care about his situation, but I have been burned trying to help others in the past, and right now my safety and that of my children is paramount. I guess for now I will just be complicit in his new digs and hope that my trust in him and his situation and my faith in god and humanity is correct.

It makes me sad that being a parent has made me think twice about helping people. I want to teach my children to help others. To not be selfish. But where does one draw the line between helping others and protecting oneself from a situation that could turn out badly?

The film Silence of the Lambs always comes to mind. How that man tricked the girl into the van by taking advantage of her kindness. I remember how horrified I was to see that scene. It had never occurred to me that someone would take advantage of generosity to do such evil.

I was not worried that this poor kid in the van was a serial killer, but being a woman with two little ones makes me very vulnerable getting in and out of cars. Or in and out of my house.

I never did tell on the guy. It just didn't seem right. We continued to say hello and banter back and forth. Eventually, the landlord rented to another family and the van was towed.

Wherever he is now, I hope he is warm. I hope he is safe and well fed. He is somebody's son, you know? I wish him well.


H. said...

I know exactly what you mean. There are times I'd just love to be a little more kind, but draw back because I'm worried for my safety. It's a shame that for every good-hearted person, there's another few freaks who ruin it for everyone.

MommyWizdom said...

I think about that Silence of the Lambs scene ALL the time. Whenever I see someone who might need help, I wonder if it's legit. The other day, there was a kid (teen) walking in the rain. It wasn't just rain though, it was pouring from all directions and hard and he was in a t-shirt and shorts. If I'd been alone I would've pulled over, no questions asked. But I had the kids in the car.
What if that kid was a psycho? What if he was just cold? I'll never know 'cause I didn't stop.

But then I wondered, would he have gotten in the car if I'd been alone? I could be a psycho!

It is very sad, indeed. :-(

buddha_girl said...

That just makes me plain old sad.

Like you, I hope he's safe and has at least one person in his corner. I cannot imagine being homeless. It's one of my biggest fears.

K-Mom said...

I know exactly how you feel. Being a mother makes you feel so vulnerable. When Miss Priss was about a month old, I had gone through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A and was eating real quick in the parking lot before I hit the road.

This guy walked up and knocked on my window and I rolled it down and screamed, "GET BACK, ASSHOLE!"

He stepped back and looked like he was going to cry. He said, "I was just going to give you this flyer. I do auto-body work and I noticed the dent on the side of your car."

I still feel embarrassed when I think about it, but as a mother, you can't take any chances. I probably could have not called him an asshole and been just as protective, though.

M said...

i think having kids or having someone else to think about does make a difference. i have a sister who is 20 years younger than me that got into a truck after she was stranded on the highway. i went ballistic yet i have gotten into a stranger's car when i my car was stuck.
if i had children, i actually would have no qualms teaching them to be slightly jaded. especially if i had daughters. soooo many girls are taught that being NICE is expected of them because they are girls. i would teach my children to be good but not nice. Nice means you go against your instincts and acquiesce.

The Van Goat Ranch said...

I completely understand what you're saying. I wonder how many times I've been tempted to help someone, but didn't because the safety of my kids was my first priority and then that person I didn't help....well, you know.
so I just wanted to say that I appreciate your comment way the hell back in April on my blog. Thins have been kind of tough and you really made my day. I would love to do the coffee thing though. You know the best thing about you is that you must be the only other person in the world that says most other moms are assholes. I really don't like to do playdates and stuff because you never know when you're going to show up at the discovery museum in your shorts and sneakers ready to play, and the other moms show up in their five hundred dollar jeans and Jimmy Choos ready to ignore their kids for the next 3 hours. Not for me. Anyway...uh... you don't wear Jimmy Choo's do ya?

Not Afraid To Use It said...

@H: As long as I am not the freak that ruins it for other people.

@Mommywizdom: I've heard all kinds of great stories from people about hitchhiking and picking up hitchhikers. But maybe the only reason I don't hear about the negative stories is because those people got killed.

@Buddha_Girl: One of the things I have always "needed" is to have a place I owned that I could always go back to. I don't have it yet, but some day.

@K-mom: OMG I BUSTED my ass off laughing at your comment. Yeah, you probably could have done without the 'asshole' comment, but good on you!!

@m: I agree with you about the jaded thing. My daughter is so sensitive. I know I need to teach her to watch out for herself. It is very overwhelming.

@VGR: Jimmy Who's? LOL Oh lord. I wouldn't know a Jimmy Choo if it kicked me in the ass. Not that they don't have fabulous shoes, but seeing that one pair is the equivalent to about three months of LittleBird's tuition, thanks but no thanks. Give me my knock-offs any day of the week. And I sure as shit wouldn't wear them to a play date.