One of the hardest realities of homelessness for me would be rejection and denial of my humanity. I've had a lifetime of people responding--mostly positively--to my existence. People have often told me that their homelessness seems to reduce their humanity in the eyes of others.
Trying to fly out of O'Hare on a well-intentioned "buddy pass" on New Year's Day and Jan. 2nd, I had just a tad of that less-than-human feeling. Stand-by passengers are a sorry lot, ill-regarded by gate staff, almost if we are unworthy. All I wanted to do was get back to my RV in Phoenix, thus escaping the bitter cold that had swooped in overnight in Chicago.
Getting to the airport for a morning flight was the easy part. After dropping me off, my friend Helen let me know that if I got stuck she'd get me, a safety net I didn't anticipate needing. After being turned away like yesterday's garbage from 3 flights, with no prospect of other open flights thanks to the weather-related cancellations, I took her up on her offer. Friends like Helen are treasures!
She even brought me back at 5 a.m. to try again. Rejection was clear-cut as the ticket counter person said buddy passes were embargoed on this day. Ouch. To add insult to injury, I hadn't had any coffee, figuring that once I crossed through security I'd take care of that essential.
Not wanting to waste another day at the airport getting nowhere, I did what any computer-carrying, coffee-deprived homeless woman would do--went into the bathroom, plugged in my computer and looked up options. My resources are not infinite, but I had enough to choke up for the 1-way ticket. Boarding pass in hand I tried to patiently wait in the seemingly endless security line to get my coffee. I landed in sunny, warm Phoenix before noon. Helen's friendship extends this far, with her friends picking me up from the airport.
Seems to me that besides the obvious home-less situation, the worst part of being in that category is the scorn that comes with it. It wouldn't take me long to start deserving that scorn because my coffee-less self was getting quite annoyed with hitting brick walls, and that was just with air travel, not life or death situations that face most people who lack homes.