It actually has nothing to do with survival and minimalism.
So by now we've covered quite a bit, but its mostly been random anecdotes without any bigger picture, and I admit; there really isn't one.
This wasn't my first time being homeless, so most of the lessons like minimalism, dealing with sleep fatigue, and managing uncertainty I'd already learned in previous attempts. This time, I really didn't care all that much for being homeless, it was just something I had to do that allowed me to spend less money which allowed me to more freely do what I wanted to do; that's really it, so what interested me this time around was really just getting to observe people.
The previous tips have already chronicled a good amount of the small interactions I had, and its these interactions that mattered the most to me because I remember how difficult it had been when I dropped out. The thing that surprised me the most when I dropped out was not dealing with the dropping out, that stuff was stressful, but fine. The real pain came from going to student events on campus (since I was still around UCLA) and talking to people about my major: it would always come up in the "getting to know you" conversation that happens, and I would, because I didn't want to lie, say, "Oh, I actually dropped out."
What followed that revelation was generally a mix of fascination, defensiveness, and amusement. The conversation stopped being a conversation, it proceeded with me being pummeled with questions, then when I was done answering all them, a look, a very distinct one, as if there were a lot of computations happening within that persons brain trying to arrive at some judgment, conclusion, or understanding of who or what I was, and then, when that conclusion came, usually: "Good luck! I'm going to ..." (talk to someone else, get a drink, yada yada).
This wasn't always the case, but it was the majority of the cases, and I began to lie and tell people I majored in psychology because it was just too much.
Well, so back to talking about being homeless... I think you can imagine it's largely the same, except this time, it wasn't social functions, but just people interactions. The main example is when I got caught on the rooftop of Covel Commons, the CSO officers treated me in a very specific way, and that wasn't by chance. It was a psychological defense mechanism for their own brains because they didn't know what to make of me. Was I insane? Was I dangerous? Who was I to put them in this situation?
I'd probably ask the same things, but in the process of asking those questions, we make a person what we think of them. If they decided I was not wholly sane, they would find ample reason for it. If they decided I was harmless and just trying to sleep, they would also find ample reason for that. But it's hard to find logical reasons; it's easier to find the reasons that match how we are feeling, and it's likely the CSO officers were not feeling so great.
This is an interesting conundrum: what do we make of a person? What I learned is that we significantly influence other people by what we choose to see and say about them —the world is not a judgment-free zone, words do hurt people, and most importantly, our judgements and words on other people matter.
There's only one experience, but it meant a lot to me, so here it is.
It's midnight, and I'm in Blackstone Launchpad waiting for the building to close to see if I'll be able to sleep here for a second night, but the door doesn't close nor does it seem like there's anyone in the building. It's Memorial Day Weekend, what do I do?
I am at an impasse. Do I shut the door myself? Do I keep waiting? It's memorial weekend, does that mean there won't be workers or that there will be more workers? I can't sleep on the couch because of this; anyone who walked up to the second floor would see me since the couch is perpendicular to the double doors. Maybe I'm not being patient enough. If I just wait a little longer, someone might close the door; if I move now, it would be a disaster, I'd get caught. I keep still. It's dead silent. There's no one here. How could there be no one here? That's impossible, someone has to be here, they are supposed to be here! I nervously get up and peek around the corner of the double door; there's really no one. Still, I can't just close the door, so do I sleep on a table classroom style? I know I won't sleep much if I do this. I consider sleeping in the Kitchenette —it's a small room with a big refrigerator, a cabinet, and a few other boxes piled up; no more than 7x7 feet, the size of a walk-in closet. If I sleep in there, I can turn the lights off, it'll be dark. This thought enchants me —I love the dark. If, I get caught in the kitchenette, however, it will be a huge failure, it will be so obvious that I shouldn't be there, but if someone comes into Blackstone and I hear them in time (since the janitor will likely be vacuuming), I can wake up, turn on the light of the kitchenette, pretend I was in there the whole time without them suspecting anything —their brain will fill in a plausible explanation for me being in there, so long as I'm not asleep! I decide to go with this course of action, moving all my belongings into the kitchenette room. A lot of it is food, so I can always leave it and come back if I need to, the rest of my belongings is my backpack and a blanket. I find a good position to sleep in that will maximize the chances I'll have a bit of preparation to put on my backpack and look normal. I'm laying parallel to the door, I turn off the lights, and I sleep, exhausted.
The door hits me, I wake up immediately, and am somehow able to process the situation, I hear a woman say, "You scared me! Oh you scared me!" and somehow I reply with, "Oh, it's okay!"
The door closes, I get up half-dazed, unsure of what to do.
I look outside the kitchenette, it's Josie Bruin #8 —the janitor who helped me get my stuff from Blackstone. She's vacuuming outside; I didn't wake up to the vacuum. I get my belongings and start to leave, and when I get outside of the kitchenette, I make sure to say, "Josie Bruin #8, right?" She responds happily, "Josie Bruin #9! You remembered my name!" I continue heading out, and she says, "You can still stay here," this surprises me, but I don't hesitate to reply, "Oh yah, I was just going to the work here," and I alter my course slightly to sit at the table by the double doors where I usually work. I place my stuff and tell her, "I'll be right back," and head to the bathroom. The purr of the vacuum continues along with Josie Bruin #8's frankly soft demeanor, a slight smile with her eyes. I get back from the bathroom, we don't say a word, she finishes vacuuming, closes the door, and I'm still in Blackstone Launchpad. I start crying. It's 6:20am.
Here's the anecdote of how I first met her:
After being locked inside Blackstone Launchpad and sleeping there...
A janitor opens the door at 7:22am, so I wake up. He looks at me momentarily as any normal person would upon seeing a person, takes out the trash, leaves, then comes back with a vacuum, and starts vacuuming. I look at him and then at my belongings on the floor. I should move them off the ground. I do this then head to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I think of all the security breaches that could happen around UCLA; I consider a janitor's job to be difficult. When I arrive back at Blackstone Launchpad, the door is closed and my stuff is still in there. I blink at the doors and wonder if the janitor is still there, his pushcart of janitor supplies is still outside the door, he has to be inside. I sit on the carpeted steps of Covel Commons and wait for a few minutes. I get anxious. I knock on the double doors to Blackstone. I wait. I place my ear on the door; I hear nothing. I shouldn't have left my stuff. I should have at least brought my backpack to the bathroom, now what?
I begin looking around to see where the janitor could have gone; I take the hallway to the right and see him vacuuming various small rooms. I approach him and ask if he can open the doors to Blackstone Launchpad so I can get my stuff. He tells me that I have to go to the front desk. I'm confused; he brought my stuff downstairs? I nod my head and head down to the front desk.
At the front desk, in the lobby, I ask a curly blonde student with circular glasses, freckles, and festive wristbands if I can get my bag. She looks at me confused, so I begin to describe my bag which is just plain black and says "Chrome" on it. She looks down at her feet, checking for bags, but there's nothing on the floor except her backpack. She shrugs her shoulders. I return upstairs and find the janitor who's moved several rooms down the right hall. I tell him that the front desk doesn't have my stuff, and he says that my stuff is still in Blackstone Launchpad. This confuses me even more, why did I go to the front desk then? "Key! You need a key," he says over the sound of the vacuum cleaner. I nod my head, I need a key! I return to the front desk to ask for the key.
At the front desk again, I ask if I can get a key to get into Blackstone Launchpad. The girl hesitates for a moment, looks at a drawer to her left and then looks at me, "Are you sure you left your stuff there?" she asks. Forcefully, I say, "I'm positive." As if encouraged by this certainty, she goes to the back room of the front desk, and I hear her talking to an unknown person. She looks at me briefly, and I attempt to look sad in order to motivate her sympathy which will motivate the sympathy of the person she's talking to because I need my things. She comes out a bit dejected and tells me that she can't open the door since it belongs to Blackstone Launchpad which is a separate entity from UCLA. They don't like their property being touched. I feel disturbed; a piece of paper said Blackstone Launchpad wouldn't open until 2pm today. It's 8am. The curly haired blonde tries to look up the hours of Blackstone to help me, but I already know the hours —I thank her, and she says she's sorry. She has the keys, but she doesn't want to give them to me.
I head back upstairs and find the janitor, he's made it all the way to the large study room at the end of the hall of the second floor. I tap on the door to get his attention, and I explain the situation to him. He listens, then pulls out his walkie-talkie, "Joe Bruin #7 to Josie Bruin #8, please come to the second floor," he says, and I follow him to the middle of Covel Commons. We stand there briefly, I feel anxious. A kindly, maternal janitor lady meets us on the second floor. Joe Bruin #7 and her exchange a few words in Spanish, then she tells me to follow her. She pulls out a white key card, opens Blackstone Launchpad, and I rejoice inside. My laptop is still open, none of my belongings packed, so I pack them up. She tells me to close the door when I'm done. I consider I have another opportunity to stay in Blackstone if I wanted to, but I consider this poor judgment if the Blackstone people are going to come at 2pm. I get my belongings, close the door behind me shut, and walk around aimlessly. I find a folded up razor scooter at the bottom of Covel near the dining halls. I take it up to the third floor and proceed to figure out how to unfold it. I unfold it; I ride around on the third floor. Nostalgia strikes me again —its been a long time since I've ridden a razor scooter, I feel like my foot barely fits on it! ...
I was off by a letter. ↩︎
A conference like room with space for students to work on their startups and such. There's a nice couch in that room. ↩︎