What a lousy 10 days this has been!
It all started when my CouchSurfing.org hosts for both Kitchener and Elmira had to back out of hosting me for the last two weeks of October. The former was not specific except to say a “situation came up” while the latter required a repair in the basement where a cot was set up for me to stay. When a hosting problem like this happens while I am in the tri-city area (Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge), I call a couple I know in Cambridge that has agreed in the past to host me. This time around, they were not able to assist, and I didn’t hold it against them. Stuff happens.
I still have a problem, though. I needed a place to stay from October 19th to the end of the month. I didn’t have any money to stay at a hotel, nor did I want to use the remaining days I had at The House of Friendship in case I needed them for winter days around -30 C (-22 F). I needed to find a way to get through 12 days of being outside with no place to go.
I remembered my past discussions with those in the social services sector and also great comments from a few followers of my blog, and from there compiled a plan. I would take a series of bus-naps between 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. that get me some sleep, and from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. I would keep myself busy. After 6:00 a.m. I would take a few more naps on the bus and the local libraries to round things out, then conduct a job search later in the morning. Dressed for the weather, and carrying around some clean clothes and an older laptop, I began the task at hand.
The first day was not too difficult, but after the second day I began to feel the initial effects of not having a normal sleep cycle. While my body was getting some kind of rest, I was not sleeping deep enough to enter a REM period, so I started becoming foggy-headed. I also had trouble trying to keep myself occupied with a book and a radio between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. and that would have been a problem had I not found a 24-hour Tim Horton’s and a 24-hour McDonald’s with Wi-Fi to surf the Internet and watch YouTube programming. I highly recommend The Four Horsemen and the Top 10’s of…well, anything, from WatchMojo in case you want to stay up all night.
After the third night, I began to experience nosebleeds, which was a mystery. I was eating properly (well, as properly as being outdoors can allow) and was taking a vitamin supplement to cover any nutritional holes. It was only when I realized the air was drier in the fall season and I was spending more time breathing outdoor air did things make sense. Drinking more water stopped the nosebleeds and the cracking of skin around my hands. That wasn’t the end of my problems, though.
After the fifth night, I experienced what might have been a hallucination resulting from sleep deprivation. On a 7C bus bound for Conestoga Mall, I noted we were slowing down to pick up an elderly man at a stop and he was using a walker. Because I was sitting in an area meant for expectant women, the elderly and those with physical disabilities, I made my way to the rear of the bus while wondering why I found it so hard to keep my balance in the process. I never saw the elderly man board the bus. It dawned on me that not only was there no man waiting for the bus, the bus never slowed down at that stop to pick up anyone.
After the sixth night, my body decided this lack of REM sleep thing had gone on far enough and I began to lapse into deeper sleeping patterns that produced dream sleep. Great — except it was happening outside of the scheduled bus and library naps. It was happening during my job search, while waiting for the bus, while using a restroom, etc. Fortunately that was only a temporary aberration and the deep sleeping patterns soon returned to the scheduled nap times.
I ran into other homeless people who also used the buses for napping like I did. Most of the conversations I had with them were enjoyable, though one who believed Ebola was a man-made weapon of mass destruction made me very nervous. One anti-poverty activist invited me to attend a “Save The Out Of The Cold Program” protest at Kitchener City Hall on October 27th. At this point I was very tired, more than a little p?ssed off, and in need of a good shower, so not only was I more than happy to take part in the protest that marched from Kitchener City Hall to the main branch of the Kitchener Public Library, I even gave a few speeches.
The march and venting of steam proved quite cathartic. Even though I still have a few more days of this to endure before heading to Toronto — where I will have a place to stay and a bed to sleep in for a while — it gave me my second wind.
Let’s hope Friedrich Nietzsche was bang-on about things not killing you making you stronger.