Nano sat at a picnic table in the shade of trees in front of the homeless shelter. It was a very hot day. Around him homeless people tried to escape the sweltering heat by sitting at the several tables or under a metal roofed outdoor structure, or laying on dirty blankets trying to sleep they’re way past this part of the day. Many argued, shouting at each other, cursing, threatening and insulting. There were all types of people here Nano noted, some white, some black, some brown. Some of the people were sane, some were not. Some had lost jobs, some had never had one, or not for long. Some were honest and lawful, some were convicts, in and out of correctional facilities on a constant basis. Some were hustlers, selling each other cigarettes, booze and drugs. Some were cons, cheats, abusive, and deceitful. Then there were some who were fair, helpful, polite and mannerly, decent by normal standards, taking pride in their appearance and cleanliness. There were many more in the first group than were in the much smaller minority group of behavior. In short, it was a microcosm of humanity, at least for what was called modern society.
Nano, sometimes called Admiral Nano, was a nickname given him by a few of those whom Nano had gotten to know reasonably well. When he had talked of nanotechnology and being an admiral, he was given the nickname with a laugh. Perhaps they thought he was insane, but Nano liked the name, it was accurate in it’s own way. Nicknames were useful here. For example, there were a lot of men named Joe, so giving them a nickname helped to differentiate them from each other. There was Door Joe, the man who’d been at the shelter since it had opened many years ago. There was Lawyer Joe, sitting near Nano at the picnic table, a bead of sweat rolling down his cheek as he tried to pretend the temperature wasn’t over one hundred degrees and the humidity way too much. There had been Choo Choo Joe, who only talked about his days working on the railroad, but he had left now, though he had still been seen in the area.
Nano hadn’t been at the homeless shelter long, a couple weeks, but he thought he’d done well adapting to this strange new way of living. Most people had homes, automobiles, bank accounts, steady jobs, clean clothes and a relatively decent place to live. The homeless at the shelter had little to none of those things. They were those whom most of society were actively ignoring. Not all of society were ignoring the homeless or their problems, but Nano had noticed that the bulk of Americans were. They were busy with their own lives and too busy to consider how the troubles of a growing number of their fellow citizens were impacting them more and more, usually indirectly.
When Nano had registered himself into this homeless shelter, some of the things he had to do made sense, others didn’t. For instance, it made sense to him to be ask if he had an income. It did not make sense to him to be ask if he was taking any assistance from other government agencies. After all, the shelter was opened by philosophical intent to all homeless and the shelter was not part of a government system. It was a charity. Why should they care if he was or was not being assisted from other sources? However, he’d politely answered all the questions on the form he was given to fill out and those of the lady that took it. Still, he found much of the process oddly irrelevant to the desire not to starve or wanting shelter from the environment.
“Hey, Nano, let’s go to the library, there air-conditioning there and I can’t sit here all day sweating till we’re allowed inside for supper”, said Lawyer Joe. “They should have let us in anyway. It’s supposed to be a cooling center once it reaches ninety five degrees and I know it’s over a hundred now.”
Admiral Nano got up saying, “Yes, it’s too hot to be outdoors all day. I’m dehydrating and they’ve put no water out for us to drink.”
They picked up their bags which contained computers and started the long hot walk to the one of the only places that allowed homeless inside within the city of Aurora, IL. Most businesses didn’t like the homeless and wouldn’t let them in or stay long. The homeless stank, often spoke rudely without manners, shouting and cursing. Nano couldn’t blame them, but then again, the more places that shunned and discriminated against the homeless, the more the problem was condensed and became acute to all society and those living in this area. If businesses opened their doors and tried to help the homeless to survive, then those unfortunate people would have been more dispersed, better served and more likely to find opportunities to change their fates to the better. Well, that is how Nano was beginning to think of things, but then he’d not been homeless very long and only a true long-term, veteran homeless person knows all the things needed to survive. Those are the things society makes a homeless person do that ‘normal’ people have no need to do. Being homeless is being abused with no one interested in helping you defend your rights or freedoms.
Arriving a half hour later, shirts soaked in sweat and not smelling clean, Joe and Nano entered the Aurora Library. They passed by the security guard, but said nothing to him since he never talked to anyone unless it was to order them out or to quit sleeping in the library. Climbing up a floor they looked for a place to sit and plug in their computers. The place had many homeless in it escaping the heat wave that was hovering over this part of the country for weeks now.
“I think before I settle down” said Nano, “I’ll go look for a book to check out. I need something to read when I can’t use my computer at the shelter.” With that he strolled down the isles.