Phil the Vet


I bid adios to my brother-in-law, borrowed a Dr. Pepper from his fridge for later in the day and hit the road at 9:15. Before getting on the interstate, I stopped at Starbucks to trade an empty Starbucks coffee bag for a cup of fresh brewed. Add a slice of banana nut bread and you have the breakfast of champions! Total cost for breakfast - $2.08. Happy camper.

When I parked in front of the store, there was an older guy, obviously homeless, sitting on one of the outside chairs. Dirty, long stringy hair, bearded face, wearing two coats and a pair of gloves, he was busy waving his arms around and having an aggressive verbal argument with himself. As I got out of the truck and started walking toward the door, he stopped talking and waving his arms. As I passed him, with an upward nod of the head, he indicated hello like guys do with guys they don't know so I gave a responding nod. I expected him to ask for some spare change, but he didn't.

After I made it inside, I noticed he started back up with the arm movements and arguing and as I stood in line, I watched him  through the window. He would behave normally whenever somebody was coming in or leaving the store, but as soon as they got past, he would start again with the odd behavior. He seemed to be desperately trying to wipe something off himself and throwing it down to the ground. Several times he jumped up and vigorously rubbed invisible stuff off his legs then slowly sat back down.

I guess the young man that had made my coffee (Jerry, according to his name tag) noticed me watching the poor fellow and when our eyes met, he said, "That's Phil. He comes here every Sunday morning. I've never seen him any other time. He never bothers anybody and always sits outside. I don't know what's wrong with him, but he's a vet from one of the desert wars so I give him a cup of coffee and something to eat from the unsold food we were going to get rid of anyway."

After finishing my breakfast, I walked by the counter and told Jerry, "I'm a vet myself. Thanks for helping Phil." As soon as I started to open the door to leave, Phil became still and quiet again. "Hey," I said to him, "you ok?" "I'm ok," he replied, "I just got these bugs on me. I get them off, but they keep jumping back on me." "OK," I said. "So do you need a couple of bucks to get some medicine or something?" "No man, I'm good. I got breakfast and smokes and I got stuff hidden. Money won't get these bugs off of me. I don't need nothing."  "OK then. Take care."

He was the first homeless person I've ever encountered who didn't ask for money. In fact, he refused it when offered. I didn't know what to think about that. As I drove out of the parking lot heading south, Phil was once again standing up, wiping bugs off his legs.

(Please click here for the first post of this series.)

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