The scene: McPherson Square Metro station plaza, 14th and I Streets, 9:10 a.m.
As I walked toward K Street out of the plaza, I got about 20 feet before a woman in a wheelchair rolls in front of me. She’s pretty well groomed, in a ski cap, a heavy coat, a blanket covering her lap, a large Au Bon Pain cup with some change and a couple of loose bills and a few signs covering her wheelchair proclaiming that Jesus would be back and now was the time to repent. Before she wheeled in front of me, I noticed she was shouting prophecies about what was to come.
(For a minute, my mind flashed to that HORRIBLE Angelina Jolie movie “Life or Something Like It” where the guy who plays Monk on TV plays a homeless guy with predictive abilities and tells her she’s got a week to live or something. ‘Cause that would have been allllll I needed to kick off Thanksgiving week — a death prediction.)
I knew immediately that Wheelchair Preacher was familiar. I’ve seen her. I’m sure of it. (I’m actually legendary for my ability to place people — I may not remember names, but faces are forever in my head.) As I scanned her face while she blocked me, I had a clear memory of her standing just outside of Metro Center a few weeks ago carrying a couple of ragged shopping bags and asking for money. I was too far away from her at the time to get the request, but her voice and her face were unmistakable today.
She looked up at me with these empty, glassy gray eyes as if to figure out what I was going to do. (And all of this was happening in about four seconds.) Finally, she spoke.
“Jesus wants you to know that you came into this world with nothing and you’ll leave this world with nothing.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. I thought for a minute before I managed:
“Thanks for the heads up. But I’m still not giving you any money.”
She sat, stunned, for a minute before she began quoting scripture. About lambs and slaughter and the trappings of wealth.
I moved around her. I could hear her yelling as I crossed I Street and kept walking down 14th. If she is a holy see, then I continued to solidify my place on the karma food chain. I’m willing to bet, though, that she was just lucky enough to find a wheelchair and some spare poster board (wait … where did she get the poster board and markers?!) and thought a new routine was in order. Either way, I’m glad she didn’t take a page out of the “overdone” playbook and tell me I had a week to live.