Monday, November 12, 2007

I've always been a sucker for homeless people. For example, there was one time I picked up a lady and her babies that were begging on the side of the road and took them to Wendy's for a meal. There was another time I fixed the power window of a guys truck because it was really cold and the window was stuck down and his truck was also his house. There was Stinky Hugo and then there was Richard Guhn.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be some kind of a saint. I'm not, I just have a sharpened sense of middle-class guilt. That and I can't look a crazy person in the eye without sympathizing on some level. After all, mental illness runs in my family. Plus, my family says I'm a "weirdo magnet."

There was this one homeless guy I affectionately call "Captain Combover." This is his story.

Back when I worked at BYU I used to watch the surplus equipment sales just to see if anything interesting ever came up. One day I found an old travel trailer that had belonged to the Archaeology department. It was pretty run-down, but I thought it would be fun to fix up and pull behind my Galaxie 500. I bid $200 and won it. I was pretty excited about it and took it home to show my wife. She wasn't thrilled, but supported me and encouraged me to fix it up with some kind words. I believe she said, "I'm not setting foot in that trash heap until you get rid of that awful smell."

I found the source of the offending odor in short order. Below the rear window there was a mossy green growth on the wood paneling. It looked like your everyday moss, but when I touched it, instead of being moist and verdant it disintegrated into a dusty cloud that invaded my sinuses. It was like the stuff that comes out of the Ark of the Covenant and melts the Nazis faces on Indiana Jones. The next day I was miserably sick: coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, watery eyes, trailer smell permanently welded to my olfactory receptors, it was awful. I went to the doctor but apart from reassuring me that I didn't have the Hanta Virus, he said there was little he could do.

I was sick for about two weeks. When I finally felt better I wouldn't go near the trailer without a surgeons mask and rubber gloves. I decided the trailer would have to go, there was no way I'd be able to fix it.

The problem was, how does one get rid of a trailer that's infected with deadly mold? I came up with a solution. The next day I posted a note on the buy/sell board at the Wilkinson Student Center. "Make all your white trash dreams come true with a fabulous travel trailer. Free to good home."

Within minutes there were two calls. One was from a student who probably would have gotten sick and sued me. The other was from middle aged guy who lived in his van. Of course I picked the homeless man. If he got sick and died, who would notice, right?

It's sad, I don't remember his real name, but the nickname "Captain Combover" will never be forgotten. He had a combover the likes of which not even Donald Trump could compete with. I think he had the kind of Male Pattern baldness where the hair only grows on the temples and at the back of the head. He must have grown it about two feet long, then folded it up over his head, then flipped it back over and back down to the nape of his neck. It looked like a morticians pompadour. He held this hair contraption in place with copious amounts of gel and a few bobby pins. See the picture below to get an idea.

I actually let him come over in the evenings and work on the trailer until it was livable, so I got to know him a little bit. The funny thing was that by the end of the day, after working up a sweat battling Satan's jock mold, his hair would fall off to one side in great clumps. He'd push it back up and keep working. Here was a guy who lived in his car, who hung around the Wilkinson Center hoping to meet a homely coed with a heart of gold, and who probably followed Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect yet was single. Are you getting the picture? He was a man with absolutely no dignity. Yet he persisted in maintaining the illusion of having hair, and believe me, he wasn't fooling anyone.

Luckily I'm pretty tall, because people can't usually see the top of my head. But the fact is, I'm losing my hair. I haven't even combed it since I was 17 years old, and yet it's thinning on the crown. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but one day I'll have to deal with the fact that my baldness can no longer be concealed. I don't know what I'm going to do.


Maudie Jane said...

I used to see this guy, years ago in my bus riding days. However he used to have even longer hair that went up and over then swirled his head. You had no choice but to stare and feel bad.

The Petts said...

I think that guy attended my singles ward right after my mission. until they kicked out the over thirties that is. If it wasn't him it was someone with the same stylist.