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February 06, 2009

Am I fat and sad, or do I just look the part?

February 6. Day 221.

A man walked up to me tonight holding a stack of books and he offered me two of his treasures. A how-to manual for lowering your cholesterol in 8 weeks, and a faded hardback from 1977 about... jogging.

He was trying to get rid of them, he didn't manage to sell them to the used bookstore down the street, and wouldn't I like these two?

I declined, telling him someone else would probably appreciate them more.

"I don't jog," I explained, smiling. (That's an understatement, by the way. Jogging is antithetical to everything I believe in. Various joggers in my life: "Just try it... Come once! It's such a high!! You can invest in some cool new shoes, listen to music, or not, and we can get an iced coffee along the way at this cute place I know, for a well-earned pick me up. Roxy: "Sounds like a plan! Can we just skip the jogging?")

"Just look through it, maybe you'll find something useful," this man said, and handed both books to me. I took them. As he walked away, I saw he had two other books in his stack -- one about personal finance and one called "Writers on Writing," which, perhaps, he'll offer to a track and field blogger?

I'm being wry, but actually this man was an interesting figure.

I was at Starbucks, trying one of their new chai latte drinks and clearing my mind after a long day. I spotted a fat leather loveseat, next to a basket full of discarded newspapers, ordered my drink and plopped down.

As I sat reading an article in TIME (which Mr. A gets thanks to a free subscription that came with a purchase at Fry's Electronics) -- about people who mooch off of news organizations for free content -- a man opened the door and headed straight for the newspaper basket.

"There goes my paper..." I thought. "But first come, first served. Namaste, old man."

And then he headed for the door.

At first I figured he had as much claim on the paper as I did. It was the communal Starbucks paper, and if I didn't claim it by putting it on a table or reading it, it was available to anyone. Even if I was sitting next to it and wanted it. Intention is nothing.

But since I bought a drink and those papers are meant for patrons (at least, I wouldn't take one without a purchase -- or asking -- and I'd apply the same standard to someone else), I felt I had dibs. Anyway, couldn't hurt to ask, right?

"Excuse me, I was about to read that paper," I began. He stopped and turned around.

"Oh. You want it? Here you go." He handed me the whole messy pile. The wrinkles on his face constricted with disappointment.

I felt bad. I didn't have a strong case -- it was in the basket next to my seat, not in my lap. And, I didn't want the whole thing -- just the A section and arts. It all took about 4 seconds, you know? And now I felt like a tyrant. My paper! I have dibs! Poor guy comes in from the cold, maybe can't afford a paper, let a lone a coffee, and I ruin his chance to catch up on the news. Or maybe he just hates Starbucks but likes current events. Who am I to judge?

"Could we share it?" I asked now. I split it in half and handed him a few sections.

"Do you have the sports section there?" he replied.

"Lemme see... I do. You want it?"

"Yeah, that's what I was looking for."

He turned around and walked away.

"Sorry," I added, still feeling like a jerk.

Then, something unexpected happened. He turned around and smiled. "Do not be sorry," he commanded. "Be happy."

And he offered me his books.

Gained: The A Section. Two books I don't want, but someone else might. Any takers?
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