The Man in the Yellow Plaid Shorts

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It feels like I failed this morning.

I was shivering as I carried clean laundry through the early morning wind, back to my apartment, debating how many layers to pile on that day for the rainy weather that was predicted. As I approached my apartment, I could see a few cars in the parking lot. One of them was mine. A man was kneeling by the rear driver-side wheel of my car. I noticed he was wearing yellow paid shorts, despite the blustery weather. Then I noticed that he had my car up on a jack and was pulling my hub cap off. Or . . . he was pulling a fragment of my hub cap off. . .  Another fragment lay on the ground.

I walked towards him, hands full of heavy laundry, and asked, “Excuse me, . .  Why are you messing with my car?”

“I was just changing the flat.”

“Is the tire flat? It doesn’t look flat.”

“Maybe I got the wrong car. They told me to fix a flat on a little red station wagon. Maybe that car is on the other side of the complex.” He started lowering my car back down.

I left the man there with my car and headed to my apartment. I dumped my laundry and stood thinking for half a minute. Then I picked up my phone and went back outside. He was gone. I called 911. 

The cops came and looked around. They said they were unlikely to find the man, but they’d patrol the area that day.

They asked if I wanted to press charges. I hesitated, then said yes, it might be a way to get the guy connected to social services He looked kind of homeless. Big, bushy, untrimmed  beard and big, bushy hair of exactly the same length, as if he’d had a military or a prison cut a few months ago and hadn’t seen a razor since. Thin grungy coat, and those baggy yellow plaid shorts in the middle of winter. He looked like he could use some help.

The older cop said he couldn’t remember ever hearing a report of a stolen wheel. There’s not a big market for them. He said they’d comb the area for a car with a flat. Perhaps the man had a flat himself and needed my tire to fix it. That was the only likely explanation he could think of.

I feel like I failed somehow. I met a man in need.  I never learned the nature of his need. And not only did I send him away without help, I sent him away frightened.

I have it easy. I look non-threatening. I used to look like a helpless, rather attractive young woman. Now I look like a helpless, rather nice woman “of a certain age.” I don’t remember ever having had to ask for help in my whole life. People just give it to me, whether I want or need it or not. This guy in the yellow plaid shorts wouldn’t have that kind of experience. Not ever. 

What must his world look like?

The man in the yellow plaid shorts, would you hold him in the Light?  ~~~

Julie Brozio is studying to become a professional drug pusher in Tucson, Arizona. In her spare time, she indulges in hobbies like talking to strangers and getting lost.  She attends Pima Friends Meeting (NPYM).