Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The Police Suggest My Handyman Will "Turn On Me"
This is the brush pile in my back yard, also showing the crappy back fence.
It's got to go, but getting rid of it has been an adventure which even involved being questioned by the police...
The guy who works for me, William, has needs. He presented himself to me the day I reported the electricity theft, a broom in his hand, saying he cleans, he trims trees, he does yards, "I do all of that."
He needed to get something like $235 to buy a little secondhand truck. With a little truck, he said, "I could really do some work, I could really hustle." As though reading my mind--what kind of person is this? What is his character?--he said he had been married for 24 years, he lived with a wife some years younger than him, and he had "little twin babies." He had to get out and hustle, he said, for his kids.
He said nicer things about my house than I have said MYSELF. He said, "I think it's a pretty little house. I wish I had the money to own this myself. Something about it reminds me of the South." Like a number of men in the neighborhood, he talks about coming from the South, not being from Minneapolis originally but having roots in Dixieland.
He has been trimming brush like crazy, raking leaves, picking up litter, even getting whacked in the head by a branch and bleeding his blood to clean my yard. He tells me he has has found a metal gate for the fence in the front yard, which he will give me for nothing, if I'll pay $10 for him to put it on.
I went there early this morning to meet him, to advance him some wages so he could buy a starter for the truck he just purchased--and William was not happy about the starter going out, because the woman who sold it to him paid her son to buy a new starter, but instead he kept the money for the new starter and just "rewired the old starter." My word, the color and desperation of folks trying to "get by."
I've lived this way. I grew up like this. I don't doubt the stories, not when the evidence is right in front of me. I understand there is a shading, at times, to the tale...a certain favorable version of events. But everything William has told me checks out in its core truth, and the only deals he wants to involve me in consist of cleaning my yard or facilitating the deal to sell my house, by strongly encouraging the buyer to go through with the deal.
He needed money. He sold me a winning scratch ticket worth $3, just like it was United States currency. I thought this was funny. Next we will barter nails like in colonial America, since nails are becoming valuable in the neighborhood to secure boards!
We went to the little grocery store...the one I called the "Mystery Store" in one of my earlier posts, and I was happy to go there for the first time. It has a cash machine, and I gave William some of what he needed. As we were walking back, some police pulled over. One questioned me, one questioned William, never leaving the seats of their cars.
What was my business with this other man? I explained I had hired him to clean my yard, volunteering the address. He needed some wages. He had indeed been making progress on the yard and was charging very reasonable amounts.
I volunteered my drivers license. I have nothing to hide, though my ability to beat traffic citations may soon draw commentary. They wanted to know what I was doing HERE, saying the word HERE like I was standing in the middle of a brothel or something.
So I explained I'd just purchased a house for $9,000 and I was getting ready to turn around and sell it for $17,000. Therefore they could see the sense in my being here. I told them to check and see how the previous day I'd called them, and some scrap metal thieves were arrested, or I think they were arrested.
I was told I should watch out who I interacted with in the neighborhood. They "seem nice," but next thing you know, you'll be "involved with something." The people I am dealing with will "turn on me," he said.
To this I replied, "The only thing this man has ever wanted from me is to clean my yard and my house."
They let us go about our business. William had also volunteered his identification, and answered their questions with his usual politeness. I hadn't heard what was said, but William told me as we walked how he had once been threatened by a drug dealer, and he had gotten the gun away from the dealer and "shot him in the booty." He stated he hadn't been charged, but this matter was known to the police.
We were standing in the yard when the officers came back. I guess they had followed us. We were in my yard--the very address I had volunteered--talking about the specifics of the yard work to be done.
The one I hadn't spoken to spoke to me. He actually left his car. He said he didn't like my "arrogant attitude" and said "I've been working fucking North Side for 15 years." He said I seemed like a suspicious character to him. I apologized for looking so rough. I concurred with his assessment that I looked like a rough character, and I could understand---
Shut up. Don't talk. SHUT UP, he said.
I was arrogant, he said. Standing there, in his uniform and gun, shouting at me. I was arrogant. He had his eye on me. Guys like me come to the neighborhood, they pay the prostitutes, they do a little crack--
I tried to volunteer how the previous night I had called 911 on a prostitute, for god's sake.
Well, the officer continued, sometimes the guys who call 911 on prostitutes do that because they HAVE A PROBLEM with the particular prostitute.
I objected to this. I told the officer I was a Christian, and he had just pretty much accused me of being involved with prostitutes and crack. The officer said he was a Christian, too. Our common belief in Christ did not appear to produce a sudden surge of brotherhood. He backed away a bit, verbally, though. Guys like me, he said.
I conceded there was a subtle distinction between "guys like me" versus "me." He told me to shut up. The tirade continued for a while. I tried to be meek. As he walked away, though, I asked for his badge number. He yelled it to me. I won't put it here. I seriously thought about filing a formal complaint, but I decided not to. These officers have a damn tough job, and they don't know my heart, my intentions, my history, or even whether the identification I offered is really me.
If I want the police to support my efforts in the neighborhood, I have to win them over.
Later, I am almost certain the same officer waved to me from his window in a "salute-like" motion while I sat on some steps with a notebook.
I don't know what to make of this. William later told me the officer was "testing me," trying to see if I would "lose it" on him, so he could "do something." He also stated he knew the officer. William said the officer had a son who was a homosexual, and this son could sometimes be seen coming down the street in the early morning hours.
William said, "He asked if you was my man."
Your man, I asked. What does that mean, in this context?
"You know," William answered. "Like, I the woman, you the man. Like that. He axed me, was I you man."
At some level I had to be happy the officer at least cast me in the role of the butch.
I shall have humor about this, and start anew with these officers the next time I see them.