I’m on my way to a meeting earlier today, when I stumble across one of those odd moments in life. Driving around the Pearl District in Northwest Portland, looking for a place to park, I notice a fairly clean-cut looking guy in this thirties, who is clearly drunk, stoned, crazy or some combination of those three, stumbling down the street. The first thing I notice is that he doesn’t look like the typical vagrant or wino, but the fact that he can’t walk in a straight line, he’s carrying an open bottle of beer, and he’s mumbling to himself all clue me in that there’s something not quite right about this guy. But then again, this is Portland, and even though it’s only 10:45 in the morning, things like this aren’t that odd. In fact, it was in this exact same block, years ago, that I saw two homeless people copulating, and came up with the idea of pornos starring the homeless (an idea truly ahead of its time, that I really should have followed through on). But that’s a story for another time.
So, I see a parking spot—which is practically a miracle in this part of town. Honestly, finding a good parking spot in the Pearl District is more uncommon than seeing some guy who looks like he should be on his way to work at Nordstrom, so wasted he’s tripping over thin air. Anyway, I’m backing up my car, when Mr. Stumble Drunk aimlessly walks behind me, and I almost back into him. He shuffles on his merry way, and as I’m backing into the parking spot, I catch sight of this joker, further up the block, getting into the cab of a UPS delivery truck. At first I think he’s in the truck, talking to the driver, but by the time I park my car and get out, I can see that there is no one else in the truck but this weird guy with his plastic grocery bag filled with who-knows-what and an open bottle of beer. The guy is rummaging through the cab of the truck, trying to get into the back, which is locked, and going through all the papers he can lay his hands on. Meanwhile, I’m just standing there watching him. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. This guy is clearly looking for something to steal, in broad, overcast and rainy daylight. Finally, he sees me, and tries to put back everything he’s gathered up. “Oh,” he says to me, “I work for UPS. I’m just helping out my brother driver.”
I look at him and say, “You don’t belong in there. Get the hell outta that truck.”
He stumbles out of the truck, eyeballing me, looking somewhat dazed, confused and not sure what to think or do. “Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?” he growls at me. Clearly he thinks he can intimidate me, while I’m wondering if I have time to beat the crap out of him and still make it to my 11:00 meeting. I look at the beer bottle in his hand, which is the only weapon he has, and part of me wishes he would try something, because the mood I’ve been in lately really could be eased by bouncing some guy’s face off my fists for a few minutes. There’s part of me that still regrets not having pummeled that guy at Fat Burger in Los Angeles back in 1997, and I’m seeing this moment in front of the UPS truck as a way make up for that missed opportunity. (Although in hindsight, showing up to a job interview covered in the blood of someone else might have made a bad impression.) I don’t say a word as he gets out of the truck, and he’s trying to give me the evil eye, and I’m fighting to hold back the laughter. Once he realizes that I’m not going anywhere, and that I’m not in the least bit scared, and that I could probably beat him like he was a runaway slave, he stumbles off.
I stand around, waiting to make sure he doesn’t come back, when I see the driver of the truck coming from a block away. Mr. Stumble Drunk walks over to the driver, says something, and points at me. I figure he’s telling the driver that he caught me trying to steal something. As the driver gets closer to me I say, “Hey man, I don’t know what that guy just told you, but I just caught him breaking into your truck.” The driver tells me, “The guy told me that you caught him in the truck, but he was only inside because he was worried that I had died and was trapped in the back.” We both laughed, and he thanked me for intervening on his behalf. I made it to my 11:00 meeting, slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to kick some ass.