I knew it was going to be an interesting day as soon as I saw it. The crackhead that hangs out near my office had somehow gotten a hold of a megaphone. At 815 AM I saw him fiddling with it trying to figure out how it works. About four hours later I stepped out to get lunch and witnessed pandemonium. Homeboy was yelling nonsense into it that could be heard across the whole neighborhood. I stood there for a few minutes just to take it in. It was glorious, he covered a diverse array of subjects ranging from his need for Starburst, how he loves pussy, how bad his foot itches, he even mixed in a few 2Pac lyrics in there. I work on the other side of the building so I can’t hear it but I assure you that the folks facing his side of the building, no way they had done more than 10 minutes of work that day; our boy was just too damn engaging and he’d been at it all morning – fueled by the powder.
Fast forward two hours and something very unexpected happened. My client, his boss, the building manager and my boss came to my cubicle with a look of concern. Immediately I assumed that I’m being fired and I started brainstorming as to what I could have possibly done to warrant a public, mid-day dismissal. Perhaps they had discovered that I nap in my car every day during lunch. (Side note: I tip the parking attendant an extra 40 bucks a month to reserve the far corner spot for me precisely because that spot provides me with privacy and a visual shield. It’s glorious, he leaves three cones there every day to keep others from taking that spot and then when I roll in I just move the cones and plant my car there. Primo spot for primo napping). But perhaps he ratted me out, played both sides!
To my great surprise and relief, they were coming to ask me for a favor: Rebuffed by the cops who clearly (and understandably) had zero interest in dealing with this chickenshit matter, the building authorities and company upper management had apparently launched a task force to figure out who if anybody in the building knows the crackhead and could potentially negotiate with him. After five hours of investigation, they landed upon me. Turns out that people have taken notice of the “bizarre” fact that I actually talk to our man every now and then when he’s more lucid. Believe it or not we have a trade agreement in place: About once a week he gives me a few old copies of Hip Hop Magazine or The Source and I give him two bucks in exchange. I won’t bore you with how we got to this point but it’s a win-win: I’d give him money regardless but this way it’s more of an economic exchange than charity. I have no use for 18-month-old editions of The Source and, to be honest, a lot of times my boy gets so excited previewing some of the magazine’s content for me (specifically, the pictures of curvy R&B singers) that I end up letting him keep it.
So there I was, 245 PM on a Thursday, walking across the street with about 50 senior level folks anxiously watching me, the hope and productivity prayers of the entire west wing of the building weighing on my shoulders, to negotiate with the local crackhead. Luckily, I had actually kept the copy of HHM that he sold me earlier in the week. Assuming that it would be difficult to just start talking to him over the megaphone, I walked in at a non-threatening angle holding up a copy of the magazine. The magazine caught his eye, he let down his guard, and I started talking to him. After a 10-minute conversation about how JayZ is great but not as good as 2pac and how Mariah Carey is still pretty hot, I felt that I had distracted him enough that he’d turn his attention away from the megaphone and toward the magazine for the rest of the day.
I bought the company about 90 minutes of peace. By 415 my buddy was back on the megaphone: “Look at that ass! I would …. and …….” His morning rant had become more targeted and dirtier, just in time to serenade everyone on their way home.
I cannot help but wonder how my new status as Cesar Milan to crackheads will affect management’s perception of me. It probably won’t at all – if anything they probably view me as some weirdo who befriends crack addicts. I don’t do office politics, I try and avoid happy hours like the plague, and I don’t engage in the type of disingenuous grab-ass’n that seems to get people promoted. But you know what, turns out I’m one of few people who has balls around here. Furthermore, next time I’m asked about a time that I “thought outside of the box to solve a problem” I can look boldly across the table and say: “I used an old hip hop magazine and my people skills to get a crackhead to stop terrorizing half the company. What the fuck did you do? Start using a new PowerPoint template?”