I noticed the car ahead of me first. It was a slick red convertible, though I couldn't tell what model it was. It looked like an older Camaro ragtop, in cherry condition. Convertibles still catch my eye, long after I sold mine in favor of riding the bike. They're still what I notice more than other cars on the road, probably what I'll always notice.
It stopped short of the limit line leading out of the parking lot, which annoyed me a little when I realized the driver was jumping out of the car. He held up his hand in a "this will take just a second" motion, and it was then I noticed the Woman sitting by the bushes near the parking lot exit. She was holding the standard "I'm homeless please help" cardboard sign, the one that's always stashed in those bushes for whomever to use for their panhandling needs. Someone even leaves a milk crate for people who are looking for handouts to sit on, and it's apparently a first come first serve kind of thing.
Convertible Boy was opening his trunk, shouting to the Woman "I don't have any cash, but if you're hungry I just bought some food."
She jumped up, dropping the sign to the ground. He pulled a box of granola bars out of a plastic bag, and pulled two soft drink cans out of a cooler, and she accepted them eagerly. He was rooting around for something else, and I watched.
No hurry. I didn't have anywhere I had to be right that minute.
I looked at the bike she had stashed by the bushes. There's a guy who regularly begs in that location who has an expensive, well maintained Trek bike; I'm not sure he realizes it likely costs him business, because anyone who sees that bike knows it's not cheap, and why give hard earned cash to someone who could sell that very expensive bike, and use that money for food first?
Her bike was a rusted POS with a dry, sagging chain, bent bars, and ripped up seat. As the guy closed his trunk, after handing over a filled and apologizing that he couldn't offer more, my gaze moved to her.
She was holding the food tight to her chest, smiling. Gratitude oozed off her in palpable waves. Convertible Boy was climbing into his car, and she sat back down, dirty hands ripping open the top of the granola bar box. From where I sat I could see the dirt caked under her nails, the grime in hair that poked out from under a faded blue kerchief. Her face lined in misery; I'd guess she was younger than 40 but sat with the weariness of someone who's just about done with everything.
Her jeans were worn thin at the knees, her shoes mis-matched. No socks.
Convertible Boy pulled away, as she was taking a huge bite of a hastily opened granola bar, her eyes fluttered closed for just a second, and for that briefest moment I could feel a hunger I know I'll never have to experience.
They're not all Trek-Bike boy, looking for a handout for the hell of it. They're not all drug addicts looking for cash for their next fix.
Sometimes they're just hungry.