It has been very cold and very unspring like here in Portland, Oregon. Still I headed downtown, braving the cold and wind on public transportation. It was sunny, so on the metro away from the doors, it was quite comfortable. A fact of life here is ‘riding the rails’ for the homeless is a great way to stay warm.
This past week a man sitting in front of me turned in his seat and started talking. He was a good-looking man and more importantly, he looked like a good friend’s husband. He seemed clean, was wearing appropriate clothes in good shape and before he started talking I would have thought him just another commuter.
Sadly his conversation was off the rails. He mentioned he was off his meds and that he didn’t think he had a definitive diagnosis of bi-polar or schizophrenia, but thought one or both was likely. In his monologue he mentioned he thinks he killed his cousin as a kid when he was put on Ritalin.
This is when riding the rails, using public transportation, gets tricky. Do I move? Do I hope he gets off at the next stop? Do I pull out my phone and ignore him? I did not do any of those things. He told me he had a serious mental illness and not taking his medications and he possibly killed some one. I thought it wise to stay put!
I really couldn’t hear him all that well with the chatter around me as well as the automated messages of the train. What I could hear was in a nutshell sad. A life gone sideways. I think at first when he turned around I was taken aback by the resemblance of my friend’s husband I must have appeared to be a willing sounding board.
My stop is the end of the line. He did not get out until then. I saw him catch the next train back into town, riding the rails.
What do you think you would have done? Has this happened to you?