If I was a labrador retriever then people would happily give me all the food and water I wanted. With that thought in mind I walk into the classy golf course restaurant near my campsite, carrying an empty water bottle. Normally the staff of such a place will either flatly refuse such a request or comply very unhappily. But not if you do it like this, “Hi, I’ve got a very thirsty dog over there. Could I fill this up for him.”
Indeed, the bartender knows there are constantly people walking dogs on the abandoned horse race track that circles the golf course. He carries the bottle behind the bar, not filling it from the faucet but from a fancy ice-cold drinking water tap that rises above the bar. It takes a long time as the water comes out very intentionally slowly.
The only bar patrons are four well dressed older women drinking wine, probably waiting on their golf-playing husbands. Noticing them looking at me curiously, the bartender says something in French, presumably explaining that the water is for my dog. Everybody laughs and smiles warmly. The woman at the end of the bar says something unintelligible to me.
“Yes, the dog is very thirsty.”, I smile back.
Everybody laughs again between sips of wine. The bartender hands the bottle back, nodding politely. Had I claimed the water was for me then the scene would have likely gone something like this; unhappy bartender, glaring women and warm water from the faucet. Everywhere in the world is the same now, no escape.
Not only is the water ice cold but there’s a hint of lemon, the best drink I’ve possibly ever had considering that I’m still catching up from going the entire weekend with nothing. From Friday to Monday it had rained almost constantly, keeping me captive under the old blue tarp, which is far to disgustingly dirty for use in catching rainwater.
I never felt very thirsty over the weekend, but have felt incredibly thirsty since that first drink on Monday. The perfect water from the bartender is gone by midnight. The empty water bottle is keeping me awake, its dull-glowing silver aluminum body standing in the leaves next to my head. There’s a always a glow here at night due to city lights reflected off the ever-present low clouds.
There’s got to be water faucets on the golf course, I think to myself, finding my way there without needing a flashlight. The air is perfect tonight, 60 degrees with a gentle breeze. The huge open area of the golf course is without a soul, without a single light, just the dull glow. I wander around the perfect grass testing hoses and faucets, all apparently shut off at the source. This water might not be drinkable anyway, but it won’t hurt to taste it. Even the faucets on the sides of the buildings are shut off, though.
Something horrifying moves toward me from the driving range. All I can make out in the faint light is a low black whining disk on an intercept course. It’s roughly a foot tall by three feet wide, moving lazily while continuing to make an eerie noise. I’m expecting be shot with some kind of ray or transported somewhere or maybe transformed into golden retriever if I’m lucky, but no, this little UFO is only interested in abducting golf balls. This is the jumbo-sized version of a robotic home vacuum system, moving to and from nearby docking stations.
A little Indian girl hisses and growls at me for the whole tram ride to the university library this morning. I’m so bored with sitting that this library but don’t know what I’d do without it. Seems I’m playing the waiting game again. Yesterday I walked back into the agency that had been going to buy me a plane ticket. I requested to talk to that big man in charge and he appeared in the waiting room shortly.
“I just need to know if there are actually tickets or not so I can move on one way or the other.”
We go to his office. He makes a phone call.
“No tickets. Your friends still not help you?”
“No. This agency had me sign paperwork three weeks ago accepting the offer of a ticket. What’s wrong?”
“You still need ticket?”
“Yes. I can get no food here without a Belgium ID. I’m going to starve without the ticket.”
The man gets back on the phone.
“OK, they make new booking. Now we wait.”
Well it’s actually not true that I’m going to starve because I’ve taken up shoplifting as of Monday, wondering why I had done so on one of those other previous long stretches without food. I’d been a pro 15 years ago, once even walking out of a K-Mart with a $200 VCR. Never did I get caught in any store, but I did stop after getting arrested for something else at 19 years old.
At 34 years old I would feel very greedy taking a VCR, and I would even feel bad about taking food if I had the ability to pay for it, but taking from multinational corporations when I’m hungry and broke……no problem.
Monday’s dinner was two cans of cocktail franks because they fit easily into my vest pockets, not showing any bulges when the vest was unzipped. Last night was a huge marvelous salami washed down with an ice cold Coke. Considering how thirsty I still am, that Coke was……..amazing. Maybe it’s a lack of sugar, because something made me want that Coke so bad. I had actually been planning on going to bed hungry till the idea of a cold Coke came to mind. And while I’m taking a drink I might as well take a salami too.
But this was two days in a row from the same store, and exiting there without a purchase requires walking through the self-checkout area where an employee is stationed at a desk. There is an electronic checkpoint gate just past the employee. The checkpoint often beeps in error but I thought it could look very suspicious if it beeped when I walked through after not making a purchase. So I stopped and asked the employee if there was any hot food for sale in the store. She didn’t understand and asked a customer standing nearby to translate. The customer translated her answer back to me, “No, you have to take this food home and cook it”.
I don’t know what sets off the electronic gate beeper, but it’s not Cokes or salamis. I suspect it’s something in the labels of fresh meat products so I won’t be eating any of those. As for getting caught at this, the most likely outcome would be a couple weeks in jail followed by deportation, which would mean free meals then a free ticket to a place where I can get more food, free or otherwise.