Getting Past the Get-Up: Beggars, Thieves, Attention Seekers & Average Joes

“Neighborhood Alert! There’s a meth-addled child molester at the Target parking lot!” read the group email put out to our entire subdivision. We had to chuckle a little at the jump-to-judgment, since we had just been to that very Target and saw this so-called “meth molester.” He looked to be your run-of-the-mill beggar.

I guess in Atlanta’s northern burbs they don’t see too much of this, but back in LA it was a constant: There was the guy on Robertson with a giant boom-box who flailed around dancing like no-one was watching; the flute player at the Ralphs grocery parking lot off Topanga; the turban-wearing guy playing electric guitar on rollerblades at the Venice boardwalk (who was rumored to be an MIT grad with a well-paying job who just liked the attention); and the guy with the sign that read “No lie, need money to get high!”

Some of these folks were just putting it on, some were possibly dangerous and some were probably bat-shit crazy. How did they know the guy at the Atlanta Target was on meth anyway, and not just too many mocha frappuccinos? I mean this was a Target with a Starbucks inside. Or maybe he just got out of the dentist office next door (I’d been there myself once and could have used a little more laughing gas for that experience). Heck, maybe he just had a bad combination of perfectly legal prescriptions that day (a friend of ours once admitted to being on Ambien and wine, driving to the store in the middle of the night, buying food, and not  remembering a thing until she saw the grocery bags on the counter the next day).

The child molester statement was a lot more loaded. We found out later that the guy had approached the man’s daughter and said “hey little girl, do you have any change?” A little creepy, yes, but not quite 911-worthy.

I will admit it’s kind of nice not to be approached by dirty strangers so much, but there is a certain bohemian quality to the shopping experiences in LA that I sometimes miss.

The Target near us in LA had a guy that may or may not have been on the Target payroll, who always dressed like a cross between a Village People person and one of Janet Jackson’s rhythm nation—not sure if he had the same outfit for every day of the week, but this get-up never varied. The parking lot was his domain. He took empty abandoned carts to their proper place, and helped out customers from time to time. Alex and I pretty much ignored him, and giggled at his get-up.

One night I had just returned from a work trip and Alex led me outside for a poolside dinner. Our old table was newly surrounded by a large gazebo. There were pretty twinkle lights framing the whole scene. “How did you even get this into your car?” I said, astonished. “You know the Village People guy at Target?” she asked rhetorically. “He helped me load it. Turns out to be a real nice guy if you can get past the get-up.”



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