Editor’s Note: This first-person feature was posted on communication student Adolf Castillo’s blog
My Saturday evening began as it usually does, I worked.
I made some calls, and cleared up some paper work.
I looked up at the NWA album cover on my Pandora staring down from the screen of my computer and thought, what happened to us, Dre?
I packed up, took hold of my wheeled briefcase, and headed out to my car.
Still, nothing out of the ordinary happened. I said goodbyes and nodded at folks in the parking lot on the way to my car.
As I walked, a rugged looking man on a Schwinn cruiser was riding by, and I simply nodded, “Hows it going man?”
I had seen him before, in the grocery store and other places, I suspected he was homeless.
I even saw him purchasing lawn equipment at Lowe’s.
In the past I’ve noticed he had a physical disability that left his head stuck in a tilt, and a speech condition that left him sounding like a seven-year-old boy in a middle aged man’s body.
I’m not a doctor or psychologist, so I won’t make a diagnosis or throw technical terms around that I probably don’t completely comprehend.
Just to clarify, I’m not a “friendly” person, but I am paid to be, and I do my job well. I was simply still in my work zone, and carried it to the parking lot.
He nodded back, but soon braked on his bike.
What did I just do?
The last time I engaged in small talk with a homeless man in the parking lot at work, he told me he was coughing up blood and had just left the hospital and asked for a ride, to which I obliged.
I thought, well you only live once Adolf, you might as well go for it.
So I drove him around until I finally left him at Whataburger. I know that’s Johnny Midnight’s turf, but I wasn’t left with many options.
Even after that unique occasion, I still stopped and listened to what this gentleman had to say.
“Could I ask you a favor,” he started, in that childlike voice.
“Sure, ask away,” I replied.
“Could you make a phone call for me, from my cell. I need to make sure the storage place isn’t going to auction off my unit on Tuesday, I sent my payment in yesterday. It’s in California and the woman on the other line can never understand me, and she gets kinda mean when I talk to her.”
Well what a mean person, I thought.
“Of course, let’s give this California lady a call, and have her not hand out your stuff,” I smiled.
I couldn’t say no after that, there was something about this guy, he was cool. He wasn’t asking for a hand out, or asking me to pay his storage.
He just needed help making sure Storage Suzy from California kept her greasy hands off his stuff.
I called, confirmed with Ms. Suzy-from-Napa-Valley-California that his unit would not be sold and that she received his payment.
Well there you have it, good deed done for the day, time for this cowboy to kick off his boots and eat ice cream.
“Hey mister, my name is Frank, Frank Stanley. That was awfully nice of you, I wonder why she was rude to me and not to you,” he asked. ”Either way, I really appreciate that.”
That was it for me, she was being a cold hearted idiot, and he couldn’t understand that she was being rude because she couldn’t understand him.
That’s the thing about being rude or difficult to someone with disabilities. You’d think it doesn’t happen much but it does.
Most of the time, the afflicted does not stop and think, “well what a prick,” and move on with their day.
They believe they’ve done something wrong, and cannot understand what it was that they did, to make said prick upset.
I understand this, because I have an eight-year-old young brother in my life by the name of David. He’s my reason for understanding.
He suffers from Asperger’s, an autistic spectrum.
My family and I live with it every day, but it’s a blessing for us to have him. He’ll teach you a lot more than you’d teach him. Yup, I had to fight back a few tears to keep this conversation going.
I asked him where he was headed.
“Motel 6, I stay there a lot.”
I’m a far cry from a navigator, but Frank was headed in the wrong direction.
“Let me give you a ride there, my truck is right over here, I got room for your bike.”
Needless to say, I don’t normally shoulder around bikes and it wasn’t my best idea to offer to load it up for him.
After I said some silent curses for my back, now in tightened agony, we were on our way.
I wanted to know more about his guy, so my journalistic bone, now probably protruding from my lower back, led me to start asking questions.
I even recorded the conversation. One, for accuracy and two, well in case I was killed I could leave some evidence.
However, my thoughts left the morbid idea of my own demise and I soon became very curious about Frank’s story.
He was talker to say the least, and I’m known for running conversations for hours, but Frank was giving me a run for my money.
“You know this is an SUV not a truck right,” he corrected. “But it’s really nice.”
“Yeah, I just say truck to sound more manly, I would have sounded like a soccer mom saying ‘load up the bike in the SUV.’”
He laughed; he thought I was funny, I like him.
Frank spoke of his family. He stated that he lost his parents a few years back and had little contact with his siblings.
Listening to him, I noticed this man was methodical with numbers. He knew exact dates, addresses and names when he spoke.
He let me know why he was staying at the Motel 6 if he was already a resident of town.
“I’m basically homeless, I stay at the Good Samaritan Shelter in Corpus on South Alameda,” he said. ”I stay in motels the other times. I get a survivor’s Social Security check for $1,375 a month. I really just want to find a small room or apartment to rent to call home.”
He went on how his parents’ home was sold and split amongst the children after they had passed away.
“We lived in that house the last two days of May in 1971 until Nov. 5 of 2003.”
I told you he’s methodical.
Frank wasn’t going to simply sit around and ask for handouts and pity. He wanted to work.
“I weed-eat, edge, mow and blow other peoples yards,” he said proudly, “I’d like to try and buy that house back sometime.”
Well, you’re probably wondering, where does a man with all his belongings on a bike and a storage room in Napa Valley, CA, keep his lawn equipment?
Fear not, as I wondered the same thing.
“The people who own my parents’ house now let me do their yard and let me keep my stuff there. They even take me to do my lawn work to help me out.”
At this moment we pulled up to the motel and I was about to bid farewell, but Frank had questions of his own.
“Can I ask you something, do you get Youtube on your phone?” he asked. “Can you look up a song on Youtube by Tears for Fears? It’s called ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.’”
As I said yes, a thought hit me.
Frank didn’t have any means of listening to music.
He couldn’t pull up a Spotify account or computer and listen to whatever, wherever.
He didn’t have a car to listen to the radio in.
This man didn’t have music. That thing we enjoy or take advantage of everyday, at the gym, in our phones, in the car, or in my case, karaoke hour in the shower.
As the next hour and a half passed Frank and I jammed, and man, did we jam. From Tears for Fears and Genesis, to KC & The Sunshine Band and Paul McCartney.
Frank had a line of requests for me.
“I love this song,” he’d say, “Can we start over?” “Can we listen to it one more time?” I’d never seen someone so happy, and I’ve been to weddings, mind you.
I quickly texted my wife and told her to bring a pizza, she had to meet this guy.
Before long, she joined us, visited him in his room and she, too, was in laughs at how pleasant Frank could be.
We talked more about music and other things, he thanked us for dinner, and the ride and the company.
He told us he thought it was a blessing to meet us.
I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me the next day; I was going to burn him a CD. He went crazy at the idea, I let him get back to his pizza before it got cold and I went my way.
But before I left Frank said something else that hit me.
“I hope me and you are gonna be good friends.”
Today, I rushed. I had to get Frank his CD. I bought him a portable CD player from Wal-Mart.
It took me a while to find, and even longer to get over the fact that these things were still being produced. I got him one with an FM radio on it as well so that he could listen whenever, as well as extra batteries.
I got two missed calls from Frank today. I gave him a call and he told me he was at the Whataburger in town.
I met him, and after a few friendly exchanges, Frank tried his new CD player. I think his face said it all.
I can’t describe the warm feeling I got. Sitting next to him in our booth across my wife, seeing him light up at an old Tears for Fears song, which he requested I put on the CD four times.
“I can listen to it all day, and I like the number four.”
Soon, Frank got serious. “Please forgive me, but I thought after I called you twice today that you were never going to answer. People do it to me all the time, so I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
This man was just apologizing for me not answering the phone.
I told him how people are wrong, and he shouldn’t apologize for their ignorance.
I made a new friend this weekend, and one that got me thinking about a lot of things, oh and we’re going having a tail gate party this weekend,everyone’s invited.
If you see Frank, he’s on a blue and white Schwinn, throw some AA batteries his way, the way he was listening to his new CD, I’d say he’s going to need them soon.