They’re somebody to their families of course, but to the rest of the world they’re just nobodies. We sometimes call them bums or vagrants but I don’t think that carries the meaning of what’s going on with these people. There’s just something that hasn’t clicked or turned on in their heads. They’re drifting through life, doing nothing. Their lives are slipping away and the best they can do is be a low-level offender, bugging bus drivers and mall security. They are nobodies to themselves.
Typically you’re going to get hired to help them by their Mother or a caring aunt. It breaks my heart when one of them comes in with $428 because that’s all she has and she’s crying about the kid. The usual bare minimum retainer is $2,000 but I’ve taken a couple of these cases just because I’m a parent and I know exactly how these people are feeling.
Of course when you meet their fathers and their siblings later they will always snort in disgust when you ask them questions about the nobody. They are going to make it clear and plain that they think some more jail will do them good. They’re going to tell you to make sure it’s at least a month this time.
When the whole family is together at court their Mother or whoever it was that hired you will try to blend into the crowd and not let on that they care about the nobody. It’s not socially acceptable in their family to be helpful to a person who can’t get it together. Maybe it’s that old Protestant work ethic but nobodies are persona non grata. The ones who care will stop by your office afterwards and tell you about how the kid got abused when they were younger or whatnot, but they won’t say anything if the rest of the family is around.
So how do you recognize a nobody? On the surface the younger ones are going to look just like any normal slacker. Dull look on their face, won’t say much, agrees with you all the time, you know what I’m saying here. The occasional smirk like they’re just dealing with you until they can get back to their street friends. For some reason they just bumble through life going from one minor crime to another. They never really get it together enough to do something bad like writing bad checks or doing organized shoplifting. They’re just the nobodies that hang around the fringes of our society. All they’re ever going to do is be dumb and get charged with low-level offenses that come from boredom and stupidity.
If they’re young and from what you might call a ‘salt of the earth’ type of family, they’re going to be wearing the set of skater clothes they got for their birthday three months ago. They have been wearing the clothes ever since except when their Mother washes them. The bottom of the pants legs in back will be completely worn away where they keep stepping on them because they won’t hike up their pants. They’re going to be grubby, which is a given. They will wear their one skater dude jacket that matches their pants nine months out of the year. They’re going to reek of cigarette smoke.
You’ll see some of the cheapest tattoo artwork imaginable on them. I mean dumb stuff that looks like it was done by some drunk 15 year old, which it may have been. The lines won’t match up. The big heart pattern won’t be symmetrical. The color is either on or off, not blended or shaded into the pattern and occasionally is outside of the lines. The design will be something dumb like a picture of their ex-girlfriend from four years ago. My favorite dumb tats are the ones where they tried to use the logo from some TV show like West Coast Choppers to look tough, but then added something stupid on the sides like flying pigs or something. Every time they collect enough cans or get some Christmas cash they’re headed right back to the parlor to get some silly new design inked on one of their arms for $20.
If they’re from a family where maybe both mom and dad are working good jobs, the kid is probably going to be wearing a polo style shirt and new jeans. You know he’s going to pop that collar. The shirt is new, too, and he probably got it 20 minutes before he arrived in your office. He will sit up in the chair and be decent in your conference room. He’s occasionally going to whine about not wanting to do this to the person who put upon herself the thankless job of helping him but most of the time he will just go along with you to get out of there.
He’s going to tell you that he doesn’t care what happens, which is undoubtedly true. He’s in a tail spin and his parents have sort of given up. They love him, but if he decides he wants to live on the streets then they’re going to respect his wishes. Except that every time his Dad sees him he’s going to get roughed up a little bit.
You will never see the ones that are from a well off family of doctors or something. Their parents are constantly looking for the first sign of clinical dumbness or slacker personality disorder. As soon as they see it, they are going to ship that kid out to some boarding school in Fiji or a year-long wilderness adventure in the Canadian arctic. These parents hope the kid just needs to age out of this stupid nobody phase. Plus, they think an adventure is just the ticket out of the local bad friends and cheap drug market. They’re probably right. Around here meth and dope are sometimes cheaper than good beer.
So far I’ve described how the young nobodies look from the only two backgrounds you will ever see. Now let me describe nobodies who keep up the game after about age 26 or so. I’m combining the description of the rich kids and poor kids because they become exactly the same kind of nobody.
They’re now dedicated street bums. There’s no other way of saying it. They’re human throw-away trash, except they threw themselves away. They’re drifting from gutter to bus stop to jail and back again. They have now burned every bridge and wrecked every family lifeline they ever had. They have been formally trespassed from every large store in town. They’re on another 30 day ban from the bus system. They’re starting to look a lot older than they actually are and they’re getting health issues like emphysema. When you see them six months later by the mall they are going to be huddled over like they’re trying to hide from everyone in plain sight.
At this point, their conviction sheet is going to be a page and a half long, maybe two pages. They’re going to have cases from all the local municipal courts and the county court. It’s a long list of small beer crimes like interfering with public transportation, littering, trespassing, drinking in public, disorderly conduct, and the occasional minor marijuana offense. The cops know them by sight and are on a first name basis with them. All the cop has to do to make another arrest and get off the street patrol is round-up one of these nobodies. It’s almost too easy. The cop gets to spend the last two hours of his shift in the warm police station. They book the nobody and they have to write-up another report instead of taking calls to bar fights in the rain or violent domestic beatings.
The older nobodies are probably easier to deal with than the younger ones, if that’s possible at all. They won’t argue with you. All they are going to ask about is how much time they’re gong to have to serve. They’re going to want you to set their change of plea hearing as soon as possible. No need to spend three weeks in jail just to get a two week sentence. That would be a waste, right? Occasionally you’ll hear about one of them moving up and doing something pretty bad like stabbing someone, but for the most part they’re just going to view the occasional jail term like the cost of doing business. Sort of like a tax on nobodies.
Usually in the winter you’ll see them getting arrested for crazy stuff like peeing in public right in front of a cop. Why do they do something that obvious, you ask? Well, that way they get arrested for sure and then they get a warm and dry place to sleep for a few weeks. As an added bonus they’re deloused and they get to eat some decent food that didn’t come out of a dumpster. Can’t beat that with a stick when it’s 20 degrees outside, can you?
Don’t even try talking to nobodies about cleaning up their act. The younger ones have heard it all a hundred times and can’t connect one plus one to get two. Either they snap out of it on their own or they slowly sink into a lifetime of being a bum. The older ones won’t even pretend to listen. They know the score and don’t care. They have their life and they like the simple, um, freedom it brings them. God bless ‘em.