Time to Settle Accounts
February 13, 2012: Ingenuity.
I was downtown, walking east on Van Buren when, just west of Wabash, I saw a man standing by the Van Buren fence “holding” a change cup supported by what looked like a bronze hook that clasped to the rim of the cup and then led to the man’s pocket. Four people, including one man wearing a hat that read “Jesus is #1,” passed him walking the other way, toward me and scoffed at the man’s request for change.
“Change?” he said as I passed. The bronze hook twisted around the rim of the cup and he shook it with the handle in his pocket.
“Naw man,” I said through my sunglasses.
But when I got to Wabash, I paused, because what the hell was that thing? And why, if he has the talent and focus to create a more sustainable approach to panhandling…
I turned and walked back to him.
“What’s that made of?” I asked, pointing to the clasp.
“Just an old coat hanger,” he said, “but a strong one.” He wore a black coat, black pants, and boots; his hair was sprinkled grey, and matted around his head as if he usually wore a hat.
“And you re-shaped it and everything?”
He nodded. “See, I bent this right here to attach to the cup, and then this part bends and runs here and I can hold it in my coat.”
I smiled and shook my head in amazement. “And when did you make it?”
His eyes were yellowed but alert. There was nothing in the cup. “Three, four years ago. Bout then.”
“Does it work?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” he said, a slight smile appearing on his face. “I run this into my coat, and I can keep my hands warm. That’s what matters – keeping your hands warm. That’s what this is all about.”
NEXT: Dance to the music. (2.20.12)
PREVIOUS: Dance with somebody. (2.12.12)
Note on the photo: This is a different man than the one with the coat hanger; I saw him on Michigan Ave. about an hour after the above exchange. Just seemed like a good pic to run with the story.