I knew something was off the minute they stumbled out of the cab. Initially I wasn’t sure who was holding up who as both men teetered to and fro staggering towards the check cashing store. Our waiter brought our check and I turned away from the window to thank her. As we left the restaurant and walked past the Money Mart, I spotted one of the men sitting on the ground, the other man tugging at his arm. We rounded the corner and I told Amy “Take the kids to the car, let me see what’s going on” and walked back. Now the cab driver was out of his cab, rear door open, and was helping guy #1 with guy #2.
“You fellas ok?” I asked.
“We need help getting Frank into the cab” said Guy #1 ((let’s call him buddy) The Russian, eastern european cabbie nodded at me and cocked his head in the direction of Frank “Please help lift?”
Let me describe Frank to you: Picture a more disheveled Harry Dean Stanton with a shock of grey hair, wearing a collared shirt with two or three buttons buttoned, grey dickies pants with no underwear, dirty socks, no shoes, and a large bandage taped to his abdomen. His breathing was ragged and he smelled like sweat, urine and booze. Both men had their arms under one of Frank’s arms, so I gave Frank a bit of a hug and tried to drag him towards the cab. It’s at this point that I realized that Buddy was just as sloshed as Frank and wasn’t really helping the situation one bit. Frank slouched to the sidewalk leaving me and Frank in an awkward, bent over, embrace while they sat down next to us. The Russian rubbed his temples “Perhaps we to call ambulance?” he muttered. I asked Buddy “Is he ok? What’s going on?” and Buddy just waved me off “He’s fine, just got out of the hospital, FRANK – get in the cab and let’s go home” Again we got him to his feet and got maybe one more foot before he collapsed again. I felt so bad for the guy and wanted to get him out of the scorching sun so asked the cabbie to drive the cab onto the sidewalk and save us some steps. He liked that idea and drove the cab right up next to Frank. I darted back to the corner and mouthed to Amy “Just one more minute!” and ran back.
I heard a tapping/banging sound and saw the cashier in the Money Mart frantically waving to me. I walked in and she gave out a deep breath behind the bullet proof window “Finally! Hey, get that guy (Buddy) to come back in here to pick up these cards, I can’t go out there and I’m afraid a customer will slip on them.” During their visit, Frank and Buddy smashed into a display case, spilling hundreds of pre-paid calling cards to the ground. I retrieved Buddy and went back outside to check on Frank, the whole time I was thinking “These poor souls, the longer they are here, the more their fare is going to cost”. By this time the cab driver had Frank all the way into the back seat of the cab, and was waiting for us “What’s going on there?” He asked me as he pointed to the store.
“I’ll be right back” Then I opened the back door “Frank, take care of yourself ok?” He nodded to me and waved at me. Inside, Buddy was struggling with a garbage bag that the woman had slid under the customer window. I took it from him, opened it up, and scooped cards onto the counter and into the bag. I told Buddy to get going “Dude this cab is going to cost you a bunch, go!” I then waved to the woman “you ok with these up here?” She gave me a halfhearted shrug and I left.
As I exited the store a guy hit me up for change. “Hey man can you spare a dollar?”
“No sorry brother, I honestly have no cash on me” “Sheeee – you JUST left the check cashing store and you got NO money?!”
“Really I don’t. Listen, have a good night”
I shook my head and got to the car.
“What happened in there?” Amy asked
I’m hoping and praying for Frank and his buddy. Frank’s friend clearly cares for him on some level though this relationship at first glance appears to be a codependent enabling mess. I have no idea what else is going on with them, and may never know, but felt I had to share this story. At the end of the day, we are all human, and even the most disheveled among us deserves a bit of dignity.