Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Mystery of the Sandwich

For the past several weeks, while driving to work, I have seen a man standing at the intersection of Greencastle, PA's main street, and the Exit ramp from I-81, holding a cardboard sign. The sign reads, "STRANDED, please help, God Bless You". I admit that I feel somewhat disturbed about not donating to this man, but the fact is, he doesn't look like he has missed many meals. (He is not the man in the picture) This man is well fed, wears clean, unwrinkled clothes, and he is clean and shaven. In fact, he looks less like a homeless person than I do. I have never spoken to him, so I confess I don't know his circumstances. I suppose if I did talk with him, there is no guarantee that I would get a factual story from him.

Last week the spot on which he stands was vacant for the entire week.

Except for the part of his sign that reads "help".

And a sandwich.

That's what I said. A sandwich. There on the ground, at the foot of the stop sign, lay a square of cardboard with the single word, "help", and next to that, a plastic baggie containing what appeared to be a bologna sandwich on wheat bread.

It was sealed.

Somehow the circumstances of this scene has fascinated me. I wanted to know what had happened to this man. Had he been run off rather hurriedly, so quickly, in fact, that he left his sandwich behind? Had he been arrested? Had someone came along and offered him work, and hope, and a meal? If so, why was his sign torn in pieces and why did he only leave the one piece behind? Why would he have taken the rest of the sign with him? Had something more sinister happened to him?

These questions dogged me the next few days after his disappearance, but for some reason, I was more fascinated by the sandwich. For the next 3 days that sandwich, in it's sealed baggie, lay there untouched and undisturbed and seemingly unspoiled within the safety of it's protective plastic baggie. In nearly 100 degree heat.

Get the picture?

But the most fascinating part was the scene I came across on the 4th day following the man's mysterious disappearance. The man was not there, and the sign was no longer there, and the sandwich was gone, but the baggie remained. As I sat there in my car, waiting for traffic to clear so I could turn left, I had time to examine the baggie more closely (without getting out of my car) and it appeared unviolated.

Unopened and unravaged.

At first I thought that maybe animals had managed to chew through the protective wrapping and purloin the now three day old sandwich. But my closer examination revealed no signs of violation. It appeared still sealed. And yet, the sandwich, in it's entirety, was gone.


My obsession with the fate of a bologna sandwich on wheat bread is troubling to me.

The next day, the man was back, and has been there every day since, and other than a new sunburn, seemingly none the worse for wear. But the fate of the sandwich still concerns me. The thought that the man may have eaten it after three days left alone in the hot sun seems to be the only logical conclusion. I don't want to think about that.

But I can't seem to think of anything else.

Note from your humble friend and uneducated blogger:
Please go visit my friend, Wordsmith from Nantucket's place, called Hammering Sparks from the Anvil. His comments are alway well thought out and insightful, not to mention well written.

Lie Of The Day:
"Look, Lads! We can bash Bush too!" the Rolling Stones seem to be saying with the release of their new song "My Sweet Neo-Con." Desperation has clearly set in. Why are the Stones going so obviously political after four decades in the music biz? "We have lots of [new material] -- it's not like we're just eking it out," frontman Mick Jagger contends.

Not "eking" it out, huh? Well, let's take a look at some lyrics from "My Sweet Neo-Con." "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of sh**." Real creative!

Note #2:
I found the above picture on Google. I didn't notice at the time but that guy looks familiar. And now I know why. He's General Zod, from the movie, "Superman II"!


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Wow....the way you wrote that, really drew me into the story. It was like making something ordinary into the extra-ordinary. I think you could make an arthouse film; or a decent Twilight Zone episode with the right twist at the end.

Now you have me curious. I think next time, you should just roll down the window and strike up a conversation about that sandwich.

I used to know a couple of vagrants around the neighborhood, in college, and I'd always share some food with them. I don't remember ever handing them any money though (on rare occasions, that happens too....but then I remember that I'm a selfish, greedy, uncompassionate, evil Republican and I'll slap my wrist and move on...orgh!)

Thanks for the plug, btw, Mark. I think my blog has a readership of about 3. (^_^)

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Daffy76 said...

It's hard to know if the people asking for help are sincere. I work at a church and am responsible for referring to our Benevolence Committee those I think are sincerely in need of help. I could tell you some stories about that aspect of my job.

What struck me about this story is the sunburn the guy had when he came back. It sounds like he took a vacation. Still doesn't explain the sandwich though. . .

And by the way, I do occasionally check in on wordsmith's blog. It's just that the list of blogs I read has gotten so long lately that I can't get any work done. So count me as one of the three.

Toad734 said...

This guy was full of shit and not really homeless, instead of someone giving him money, they gave him a sandwich, he didn’t want it, a few days later someone or something came along and ate it.

The bottom line for "homeless" people is this: I gave at the office. I pay taxes which go towards food stamps, homeless shelters and public housing. No one in this country has to live on the streets if they don't want to; the ones who do make their way without begging. That is how you know if a person is truly homeless, if they ask you for money, they are either a scam artist or crack head, if they live under a bridge, have old clothes and don't bother anyone they are homeless, and probably by choice.

Francis Lynn said...

Sounds like something I would do - leave a sandwich as a joke, then in a few days take the sandwich & leave the baggie. Just to puzzle curious drivers. Then again, if the Virgin Mary can appear on toast (& some guy bought it for $10,000), who knows what powers are behind a baloney sandwich. So be nice to everyone. You never know who could be an angel.

Mark said...

Thank you for the kind words, Wordsmith. They mean a lot to me, coming from one as talented as yourself.

mlwhitt said...

Reminds me of the time that a women was begging for money to buy food with. Instead of giving her money I went and got her a sandwich. She was "I don't want a sandwich I want money".

Poison Pero said...

Did you accidently wander into a Liberal party last night, and have someone sneak a "crazy pill" in your drink???

I don't think the bum, sandwich or sign ever existed, Mark......You just thought they did in your whacked out state.

My favorite 2 "Street Bum" stories.

1. 6:00am on the way to work, drove by a man in a wheelchair, woman standing up holding "Disabled Vet sign"........6:00pm on the way home, drove by same couple, but woman in chair, dude standing up holding "Out of work, children starving" sign.

2. Street Bum at major Phx cross street holding sign: "Why lie, I just want a beer"

Watch them parties Mark. Next time you may wake up next to a girl named Hank, who goes by Henrietta.

Erudite Redneck said...

Anytime anyone on the street asks me for money for beer -- and it's happened a few times -- I cheerfully donate. I could find myself in the same predicament one day!

Otherwise, I play it by ear.

In downtown Oklahoma City not long ago, as Dr. ER and I were taking pictures of a cool old Coney Island-type hot dog joint -- "Hot Weiners Since 1928," the sign says -- a hungry-looking dude sitting on the stoop out front asked for spare change. I was in a particularly benevolent mood and gave him a $5.

He went right in the place and bought some hot dogs and ate them.

Don't know whether he was lazy and hundry, or hard up and hungry, but he seemed hungry to me, and he was.

Perhaps I entertained an angel unawares. Or, I got ripped off by a lazy bum. No matter, I felt good about it.

Oh, Toad, yer going to lose a loony liberal point talking like that.

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tugboatcapn said...

Mark, I pass by a certain corner a couple of times a day, where urban outdoorsmen are almost always pan-handling.
I have never given any money to one of them, however, I have frequently given them bottles of water or sodas from my cooler.
They seem more grateful for this than they do for the dollar that they get from the car ahead of me.
The story of the sandwich is intriguing.When you have more information, you must post an update...

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Reminds me of a story I read in high school from the book, "Way of the Peaceful Warrior":

On a construction site, in the Midwest, when the lunch whistle would blow...all the construction workers would gather together to eat their lunch. And, with singular regularity, Sam would open up his lunchbox and exclaim, "Goddamit...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again!! I hate peanut butter and jelly!". This would go on day after day; and as the weeks passed, one of his coworkers finally grew irrated enough to say, "Well, fer crissakes, Sam...if you hate peanut butter and jelly so much, why don't you have your old lady fix you something different?"

Sam looked at him, perplexed. "My old lady? What do you mean 'my old lady'? I'm not married. I make my own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Ok...that story had little to do with yours, Mark...other than involving a sandwich. But that's what just now popped into my head. I suppose, you could make a stretch, and say that as it relates to the homeless in general, the moral of the story is that we each make our own sandwiches in life; in other words, life is as good as you make it...we dig our own get the point.

I have mixed feelings in regards to how to best help the homeless. In college I did soup kitchen and food salvaging for a shelter. I rarely give money to panhandlers, though. Depends, but it's rare. Giving food, I don't mind. There are a number of homeless who really belong in mental facilities; and then there are others who need to help themselves.

The only thing more pathetic than the scammers are the suckers who fall for their act.

Mark said...

When I was married, my wife insisted on pulling over so she could give a panhandler on the side of the road a dollar. Later, she bragged to our pastor about what she'd done. (she craves attention, sigh)
At any rate, the pastor told us he knew who she was referring to, and that person probably had more money than we have.
Bottom line, we decided it didn't matter if my wife got scammed, She gave from her heart and that is what God sees.

Francis Lynn said...

True story: A Rutgers Univ. prof 20 years ago, as an experiment, spent a few days panhandling in Newark. At the end, he had averaged $25 an hour. Of course, it came without health benefits. (I tried it, using my finger in eye socket pose, & got nothing. Don't understand.)

tugboatcapn said...

You must not have given it enough time, Francis...

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Once, I was driving through Little Tokyo, and came to a redlight. A transient began turning over cartwheels in the street. Light turned green before he got to me, but I would have given him a buck just because I was lmao! That was some funny entertainment. At least he was trying to earn his pay.