After I dropped Isabel off at school this morning, I had to go to the Post Office to send a registered letter, and decided to go to the main branch because it was just as much on my way as any other. I got out of the Metro at Mustek, but went out the exit at Na Přikope instead of Jindřišska, and there was a moment of disorientation.
One of the beauties of living in a great touristic city is that you see all these amazing sites at all times of day and night, in all seasons. Early mornings are lovely, because there are almost no people about and, as all the shops are just opening up, it is both as clean and uncrowded as Wenceslas Square ever gets.
As I walked up toward Jindřišska I saw a gaggle of police harassing a homeless guy, which is nothing unusual. He was obviously drunk, leaning on some kind of post, and his hand slipped and he went sprawling on the sidewalk. He hurried to scoop up the meager, and humiliating, contents of his pockets – a few wadded up tissues, some scraps of paper -as the police chuckled.
On the one hand, that’s one thing I hate about cops. If you are in their clutches, it’s quite clear you’re having a horrible day, and they’re enjoying it. I feel the same about dentists. On the other hand, it was funny, and I chuckled, too, as I walked on by. The guy was plastered.
But the scene stuck in my mind, and it made me think: the law, in a kind, tolerant society, cannot be black and white. Sure, nobody wants filthy (oh, yeah, he was filthy), drunken people sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk, certainly not there. On the other hand, he was probably not breaking any specific law. He certainly wasn’t hurting anybody.
I don’t know what they did in the end. Probably just chased him away to someplace else. That’s about all they can do. The homeless problem is never going to be solved by the police – or, for that matter, by laws.