Thursday, March 22, 2007
Earplugs are to shut out the snoring of strangers in close proximity; the traffic cone sits on the floor at the end of your sleeping pad -- the number correlates to the sign-in sheet upstairs where I or somebody like me (the volunteers who say, when you walk in the door and present your ID card: "hi -- how you doing -- overnight and a hot meal? bag lunch for tomorrow? and would you like an early wake up too?") the folks who write down your call time when you asked for 4.30 -- because "early" around here is any time before 6.30, when the lights come on and everybody else has to get up and out the door within the hour.
It's usually the folks with jobs who ask for the early wake up. They're the ones whose cones we find in the dark and then gently shake awake so they can head out into the pre-dawn and start the long peregrination by bus or train or foot to the minimum wage job that's not even barely keeping them fed or else we wouldn't see them back here tomorrow night.
Another essential, and harder to come by, as I learned when I scoured the office looking for one for a dear woman my mother's age, neatly dressed, whose poverty shows most acutely in the teeth that went missing long ago -- is a phone book.
Handy for tracking down businesses, handy for planning your next step, if you're not one of the ones lucky enough to need that early wake up call, and you're just trying to find yourself a job, so you can get out of this place and get yourself a home of your own -- where the only thing to shatter the snore free blissful silence is an alarm clock that you set your own damn self.
Phone books have the advantage of not requiring electricity, not requiring hardware and software, not requiring an Internet connection. And phonebooks, increasingly, are getting tossed in the trash bin because folks with all of the above can get the listings they need online.
While my friend on the other side of the desk, with none of the above, cannot.
Full disclosure: In my day job I'm one of the people who build those sites, so and I'm not advocating against them. It's just that I'm reminded every month when I work here that the digital divide is no myth. And it keeps getting wider.
Posting from the shelter.