Meet Corey, the Starbucks homeless-nerd. Stephanie and I decided to interview him the other night to answer all of your probing questions. Armed with notepad and iMic’d iPod we approached him at his “office” in Starbucks. He was a friendly and personable, well-spoken, and witty. He charmed us instantly, and we spoke with him for an hour. Stephanie wrote up our experience like this:
Corey turns 21 tomorrow. He won’t be celebrating this rite of passage at ’21′ or over impetuous fistfuls of Jagermeister but will instead spend the night sleeping upright in a chair at a 24-hour Kinko’s. Corey has been homeless in New York City for the past three and a half months.
He bathes in churches, spending $20 a week on mouthwash, shaving cream, and other necessities. The self-taught Midwestern transplant earns money by helping people with their computer problems at Kinko’s come nightfall. During the day, he uses the ghetto-tech computer equipment, he discovered in a dumpster, to surf the Internet at Starbucks (picking up free wireless waves from the neighborhood). Is he surfing monster.com for a job? “No. What’s the point? No one will hire you if you don’t have an address.” Instead, he’ll navigate local news and spend most of his time in Yahoo! Chat rooms trying to find his soul mate. “I have to admit, I have quite a way with the ladies. Especially the big ones. I like mine big.”
“Don’t these women, once they discover you’re homeless, lose interest?” How exactly does one go about dating when he’s homeless? He shows up on dates wheeling his monitors and United States Postal Service bin filled with toiletries.
“Some do, and it hurts my feelings, but once I find her, I’ll be very rich.” I have to admit, I missed it completely. I thought immediately, sugar momma or scam. Instead, he was alluding to the ending of a children’s book, an illustrated one with bears and hearts and a bench beneath an apple tree. “Finding her will make me a very wealthy man.”
My additional commentary:
Hilarious. The kid spends all day looking for ass in all the wrong places. He eats leftover sweets from Starbucks or strangers. He saves what little money he gets for cleaning himself – he seemed very clean. He showers at a local church. He spends all day until 10pm at Starbucks and then moves on to a 24 hour Kinko’s. He sleeps for a few hours at a time sitting in one of their chairs. And he longs to leave to NYC to go stay with some other new woman. “It’s really hard here in NY without any money.” No shit.
He had a laptop when he first arrived, but it was stolen during his first night at the shelter. Now he doesn’t go back. Instead he lugs a reconditioned-from-the-trash desktop computer around with a 15″ CRT monitor. He got it running with $47 (“a stick of memory,” a wi-fi card, and hard drive cable was all it took).
No permission from Starbucks either. He just walked in one day a few weeks ago and plugged in. “They looked at me strange at first, but then started asking me questions. Now they give me leftover food at the end of the night.” He looks at it as a mini-business plan, “I figure, I turn my monitor towards the window and people come in to ask me about what I’m doing. Then they buy coffee. It’s win-win.” He has a point. He added, “…but I might be wearing out my welcome.”
When he explained his financial situation: 2 Canadian coins in his pocket and 47 cents, Stephanie and I sympathized. It’s his birthday this Saturday, so we gave him enough money for a few good meals and bus ticket to Illinois (to meet his next love). He shocked face and simple, “God bless you,” was repayment enough.
Yesterday I popped in to say hello. He excitedly told me about the new flat panel monitor he got for $50, the new keyboard for $10, and the memory stick for his old monitor-less laptop. “Now I can listen to music from this one, while I surf and IM from this one.” My disappointment must have been obvious, because his smile straightened quickly. I made some excuse for needing to leave, and then did.
I guess there are real reasons why some irresponsible people wind up friendless, broke, and eventually homeless. Most homeless guys would beg for money for food and then go buy a fifth of vodka. This kid gets his buzz from circuits. It’s not all that different I suppose.
It makes me sad, and my heart is made of frozen stone.