Monday, March 16, 2009

What Would You Do (Pt. 2)?

The other day I told you about a situation I found myself in that presented a moral and obligatory dilemma. And you responded. Thank you.

So, now - here's another one for you to think about.

Later that same day...
I went to a local pizzeria for lunch. Inside, a woman sat quietly on the bench near the hostess stand...just sitting there. For how long, I don't know. A shopping bag from Bath & Body Works had been placed in the middle of the floor, half way between the hostess stand and the restaurant counter. The woman was slim in dark clothing with a brown substance smeared on her face and what appeared to be black eyeliner encircling her eyes and filling her lips. She was, as the locals call her, The Mud Lady - a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who is homeless. The pizzeria's employees were clearly uncomfortable having her sit in their restaurant. She wasn't disturbing anyone or anything; still, they asked her to leave. Without argument or fuss, she picked up the shopping bag and walked out.

The Mud Lady has been known in this area for years. The stories told about her make her almost a mythical being - a strange creature who smears "mud" on herself as makeup, who once had a good home with a husband and family, a good job. A coworker of mine formerly work with her and said she used to be beautiful, a former model. The tales of "how she came to be on the streets" seem to grow more fantastical as the years go on. As a paranoid schizophrenic, she, unintentionally, has become an oddity - one to be avoided/stared at/mocked/scared of. I've encountered her many times, and from what I've seen, she's harmless. Out of the norm? Sure. But it would seem "the bark is worse than the bite", so to speak. Still, it seems the reaction to her is always the same, and the stigma of people with psychological disorders is still alive.

So - in this situation, I'd like to know what you would do? Knowing her condition and her demeanor, would you have accepted the restaurant kicking her out? How would you react if you saw her on the street or in the restaurant? Would you avoid her? Make fun of her? Lower your eyes? Say hello? Buy her a slice of pizza?

I don't want this to be a "gotcha" scenario, but am just curious about behaviors. The thing we think we would do isn't necessarily always the thing we end up doing. So, let's talk about this...


Kat said...

I think it's easy to overlook people like this on the streets, homeless and mentally ill is not the greatest combination. The odds are stacked against ya

PeterPatnter said...

Yes of course -- smile, say hello, maybe sit down, ask whether there's anything she needs. Offer a slice of pizza? Sure, why not?