I’m not sure of the Politically Correct term for a homeless bloke. Tramp, bum, vagabond and vagrant all seem too insulting, classist and a bit mean. So I’m going to use “hobo”.
One night a few years ago I was sitting in the Hornswood RSL with half a dozen mates, beers in hand, discussing the Rugby League (wonderful game that it is). One of our mates (Budgie) had stood up to put on a bet and a really big hobo stumbled over and just sat down in his seat.
I’m very respectful to homeless people. The phrase there but for the grace of God go I, is absolutely gold in any hobo situation. So despite the fact that the place was pretty much empty, we allowed him to sit at our table with no protests.
At the risk of insulting the entire hobo class, this large guy really smelt badly of all the clichéd hobo smells. An acrid, eye-watering mix of urine, ingrained body odour, cigarettes and alcohol. He smelled so badly, we found ourselves subtly turning our heads away to breathe.
Reiterating, I am in no way anti-hobo, but he had filthy clothes, greasy hair, a massive, knotted, grey beard which was stained with cigarettes and food. Watching him sit there gumming and slobbering around the top of his beer, was a bit… disturbing, but we maintained our respectful attitude towards the man.
My mate Budgie returned from the bar, saw his seat was “large-hobo-occupied”, so off he went to the bathroom.
One of my mates – “You doing ok today friend?”
The hobo sucked on his beer again, slobber ran down the side and he burped a guttural burp into the top of it.
Hobo – “Got spare change?”
The doorman from the RSL approached our table about to escort the hobo outside, I gave him a little it’s ok wave of the hand.
Me – “Sure do brother.”
We all coughed up the coins in our pockets and dumped it on the table. He grabbed the coins up with a sweep of the hand, gladly accepted the two ciggies one of my mates offered him and stood up. He grabbed his beer, quickly sculled most of its content, coughed into it, smiled a black-teeth smile, gave us a thumbs-up and then left.
Budgie came back to his seat, now empty.
Again, no hobo-phobia, but the entire area smelled particularly funky. Over the next five minutes, Budgie sat there and drank the last few sips of his beer.
It was my turn to shout, so being the local RSL, I helpfully gathered up the empty bottles.
Me – “Same again lads? Five Peroni’s and… (I looked at Budgie’s beer bottle as his was a different colour to ours) one Tooheys New”.
Budgie – “No Cool Hand (my self-ascribed poker call-sign), it’s six Peroni’s. I’m on Peroni’s too.”
Me – (looking at his empty bottle) “But that’s a Tooheys.”
A look of horror etched itself on Budgie’s face. He went white.
Budgie – “OH GOD. I DRANK HIS BEER.”
He went green.
Budgie – “I THOUGHT IT TASTED MEATY.”
I cannot remember ever laughing so hard in my entire life.
When he saw Budgie had gone to put his bet on, the hobo, had brazenly strolled into our midst, conned us out of about $15 in change, scabbed two ciggies, stood, sculled Budgie’s 80%-full Peroni and replaced it with a 20%-full hobo-Tooheys New. The perfect sting.
We laughed, and we laughed and we laughed. Budgie… not so much.
The rest of the night was permeated with periods of laughter, talk of potentially catching hobo-whooping cough and reminders of hobo-body odour and hobo-breath. And more laughter.
He was without a doubt the coolest, most brazen hobo in all of Hornswood. The Clint Eastwood of hobos.
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