The Vacant Video Store Bum

This morning I went to the Kinko’s near The Metro for work-related business. I’ve been going to this Kinko’s for work related business so much recently that all the morning people know my face, and most know my name. Every time I go to Kinko’s to pick up something, I leave a little earlier than I’d leave for work, walk west to Roosevelt and then south until I hit 45th. When I get to 45th, I turn the corner around the former video rental store and make my way towards Kinko’s. Decorating the vacant video store are faded and paint chipped carnival columns that create a gaudy and misplaced feeling. I always examine these columns as I pass, wondering about their history. I often find the need to know what type of store found a use for them, as I’m almost positive the video store wasn’t responsible.

When I turn the corner, there is always a big man in a sleeping bag nestled in the rain-protected niche the front entrance offers. I usually exchange a friendly “hi” with this man if he’s awake. But sometimes, he’s passed out and smells of cheap whiskey and piss. It’s a smell I’ve decided to call “Bum Piss” as it seeps from every tucked away corner on Roosevelt and the other streets near where I live. On these occasions, I walk by thinking of what cheap alcohol I’d pass out with if I were cold, lonely and on the streets of a cynical city. Tequila is my alcohol of choice since it makes a really tasty drink known as Margaritas. But is cheap tequila the cheapest there is? I’d probably try to maximize my money and buy the cheapest, hardest alcohol available. And yes, if I was living on the street and had no one to take care of me or to take care of, I would probably buy alcohol and drink myself to oblivion at every chance I had. Wouldn’t every other person do the same, whether they want to admit it or not? Even the pompous businessmen walking the streets of downtown Seattle who always make it a point to yell, “get a job!” at the bums aren’t protected from the same fate should they fall into similar circumstances.

Often, when I walk by the man a second time on my way to work with my box of copies tucked under my arm, I nod to him and smile. When I pass and he remains in his sleeping bag, receding unseen, I wonder if anyone else smiles at him? Do the bus patrons standing in front of him make it a point to ignore his very existence? They probably do, as I often do the very same thing with other bums. But this bum is different for some reason. He has never asked me for money, and has never cat called me or yelled creepy sexually suggestive comments in my direction. He simply smiles and gives me a big cheerful “Hello”.

For some reason, I’ve never stopped to talk to this man, even though every time I pass him I want to. I want to ask him his name. I want to ask him where he’ll sleep when the vacant building opens as a bike shop and the owners decide to chase him away. I want to take him to a restaurant or caf� and buy him a meal where he can sit and enjoy the soft music and warmth. I want to hear his story, and then I want to go on my way to work and make a difference in this world. But instead, I pass him and continue on my way.


  1. mysterious j says:

    wow. nice entry.

  2. Hey, cool site. I was just browsing some listings and found this one. I must say, your's is one of the better looking students sites I've come across. Most are really shitty.
    I think I know what bum you're talking about. I go to the UW also and I always see that guy when I wait for the 44 to Ballard.

  3. in regard to the comment about wanting to drink if u were homeless, etc… can i just say THANK YOU!!! i've been thinking the same thing for years and nobody understands. it's not like if you're on the street and someone gives you a few dollar bills that you can go find an apartment to rent for a month. we all self-medicate, and if i didn't have somewhere it live, i know i would want to be as drunk as often as possible just to escape the reality of my life.

  4. Jason, thanks for letting me know you appreciate my post. Likewise, it's nice to see that someone understands where I'm coming from. Most people think I'm crazy and don't want to admit that they would waste their lives away on alcohol. But if that weren't true, then why do bums do it? After all, they're the same type of people we non-bums are.