I saw him yesterday, let’s call him “Alex”, he used to wander the roads around the area I live, hitchhiking to nowhere. I had picked him up a couple of times and he had a bit of script. He was off to see his daughters and his wife was “no good”. There was a real disconnect for him somewhere. The last time I saw Alex he was being questioned by the Police, I explained to the constable that he was homeless and travelled the roads. Yesterday Alex had swapped his mode of transport, he was riding a bike. He carries only a plastic bag, who knows the contents. We were on a back country road and there he was plodding up a hill, upright, helmetless, determined, on a mission to nowhere.
Who is Alex, why is he constantly on the road? He sleeps “under a hedge, a tree, a hay barn, nice and warm hay barns” he says. It seems an aimless life, going from one place to another, he is probably in his 60’s it seems, what happened to him? The same routine, day in and day out or so it appears and logic tells me that he must achieve the same thing, what that looks like to him I don’t know, I can only speculate whether Alex gains some satisfaction in his day and whether he has a pattern he follows. I think there is a little bit of Alex in a lot of people, I know. Stuck in a seemingly inescapable groove, going round and round in ever decreasing circles. Some people seek refuge from this they use substances, middle class drug of choice, alcohol, cannabis seems to be the drug of the underclass, however back to Alex.
Alex as I said previously used to hitch hike, nowhere in particular was his destination. He was dressed well enough, old-man’s clothes though, travelled light, just a small back pack. He would, do you have any change, a fairly standard patter that I have heard from street people, but unexpected from this clean shaven man, my friend and I gave him about $20.00 once, he said thanks, he was going to buy some socks and some food. I couldn’t tell you how old he is, perhaps late 60’s early 70’s, younger or older, well who knows, but he will have a story.
His journey could be that of mental illness or addiction, it could be depression, a profound loss, who knows. I once thought of asking him home for a meal and a shower, wash his clothes, but I couldn’t decide, was I patronising him, would I be putting my family at risk, I just didn’t know. After a while I stopped picking him up. It just didn’t seem right to me anymore, and then I saw him, a head bobbing along in the distance, an old school wanderer on an old school, upright bike, probably a 60’s vintage Raleigh, single speed. Why the change I thought, what possessed him to do that, is Alex a classic example of anomie, deviant behaviour where instead of taking his life Alex travels on an endless circuit, going everywhere but nowhere. Seeing him ride on some of the back roads of where I live worries me, no helmet on his head and no high vis vest, an accident waiting to happen, who would miss Alex, how would we even know if he was dead, he could be lying in a ditch undiscovered.
What is my point in all this, well there are Alexs all around us, it reflects on a sad society for many people and a disconnection that many feel, is there an answer? Well yes and no, we can continue to try and work towards an inclusive society but there are many who can’t, or won’t fit it. It behoves us to spare a thought for these people, and perhaps a kind word and bit of change. I will write about a few more Alexs I have met in another blog till then, live well and love lots.