Hans is a true old corner boy. Almost every day he can be found hanging out on the street corner by the Jumbo supermarket; a cap over his slick grey hair and in rainy weather he is wrapped up in an orange safety jacket. I think he must be in his 70s. Just like some of the other older men that I regularly see roaming around the neighbourhood, he is always by himself. ‘Isn’t sticking together much more fun…’ I wonder. Hans sits with an air of defiance on his rollator. As if, through his body language, he wants people to know that he really doesn’t need the thing at all and it’s just for show. He often has a can of beer or a cigar in his hand. And, once in a while, it seems like he is engaged in lively conversation with a passerby. Today it was my turn. As I walked past I wished him a good morning and he asked me for 30 cents. Curious I asked him, ‘Why such an odd amount?’ ‘Well lady,’ said Hans, barely understandable due to his lack of teeth, ‘I can’t just ask everyone for 2 euro?’ Seeing his point I rummaged for some change in my bag.
Hans lives in a seniors home just a couple of streets from the Jumbo. ‘It’s okay there’, he tells me, ‘but I don’t have a lot of money left over for myself so I ask for a little bit of help on the street. The folks at the house are fine with it.’ He wanted to buy a treat to offer to his trustee who is coming for a visit tomorrow. After making my contribution, I wish him a good day and carry on – charmed by his desire to be able to offer a cookie with coffee. On my return trip he is still sitting there. Hans looks at me as if seeing me for the first time. ‘Can you spare me 30 cents?’ he asks.
Hans isn’t his real name bij the way….