Jewish Journal

Who Will Answer the Call?

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

February 10, 2011 | 4:23 pm

I’ve been debating whether or not to tell you all this.  But I guess since I’ve already exposed more intimate details of my personal life than I care to remember, there’s no point in holding back now. 

I’m not a big football fan.  I come from an ilk where Superbowl days were spent in museums pondering why the theater doesn’t attract stadiums filled with sixty thousand people.  But I do enjoy any excuse for day-drinking and my roommate, Anita, is from Wisconsin, so party for the Superbowl we did!  During halftime, my roommate and I planned to change venues to make an appearance at a second location which meant we had to get from one end of Santa Monica to the other before the third quarter started.

After the first half of the game, driving to the second destination was no longer a responsible option; Anita and I wandered outside trying to figure out the best mode of transportation.  A young bearded homeless man in a big overcoat, holding a brown cardboard sign, asked us for change.  We walked right past him, the standard response from many Santa Monica residents who regularly offer up our beaches as homes when suddenly on impulse from where I know not, I shouted to him I’ll give you five dollars if you can beat us to Montana.  Montana Street was at least a mile away and my friend and I had about a twenty feet start, when he yelled back really? I looked back over my shoulder shouted “really!” and took off, running as fast as I could, and Anita followed suit.  With enough alcohol in my system to make me believe I could run forever, we were running hard through the streets of Santa Monica as he chased behind us. 

Anita kept shouting, he’s coming! He’s right behind us and and eventually I could hear his footsteps as he neared us.  Yes, I had a moment of self-doubt when I wondered whether I was exploiting the homeless for motives which weren’t quite clear to me, but he didn’t have to take me up on my offer.  Besides, this guy could seriously run.  We shrieked and yelled and eventually, within a few streets of our destination, we succumbed to the cramps the sudden boozy sprint had caused and the homeless men sped past us, with his back-pack bouncing wildly from his shoulders.  He had won.

We gave him five bucks.  He seemed very appreciative.  I was sort of sad to see him walk away.  (Side note - to anyone who thinks homeless people are lazy, how wrong you are.  These people want to work.  You should have seen this guy – he was fast and not just homeless fast.)

In any case, I tell you this because what really shocks me about the whole thing is the lack of interest all the denizens of Santa Monica had in what was unfolding behind their eyes.  You’d think that two yuppie hipster girls running down the streets being followed by an indigent panhandler, screaming he’s right behind us would have alarmed some of the passers-by.  But no!  No one asked if we were ok or tried to intervene.  People just watched the scene unfold.  So be careful out there.  Don’t get caught in the streets alone because next time the person doing the chasing might not be a man whom you’ve paid to follow you.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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