Tonight, I began work at midnight. I had to go over a procedure with the co-worker I was relieving, which took up a few minutes, then discussed whether the problem he was having was unique to the site we were currently working (it was, thankfully, so it's probably a programming oversight). He left, and I got my ducks in a row for the rest of the night. Realizing that I needed to get something from my car, I exited out the front door, and saw a guy outside the building. It being after midnight, and he being on site, he immediately placed himself in an "adversarial" role... time to play the role of the Big Bad Bald Bastard- cue stentorian bellow:
"WE'RE CLOSED AT THIS HOUR..."
"I just wanted to check the ashtrays."
The guy was well-spoken, a white guy in his mid thirties, reasonably well-dressed. I'd actually seen him before, sifting through the ashtrays for cigarette butts, but not at this hour.
"In the future, you might not want to do it at this hour... it's not a good time to be on the property."
"I can't do this in public."
"Carry on, then.... We're closed this time of year, you'll probably have slim pickings."
He wasn't too proud to sift through two public ashtrays to scavange other people's dog-ends, but he had enough pride to not do it when there were people milling about. I seemed to recall hearing that the guy was the son of a local "Man of Substance", but couldn't remember who had told me that. He did have a nicer phone than mine, which he used to illuminate the contents of the ashtrays.
As I watched him leave the property, I pondered what sort of mental illness could have a not-indigent man sifting through foul saliva-coated trash at midnight on a cold winter's night. As a high-schooler, I worked in the local deli, and there was a local guy who was convinced he was a priest- he'd walk up the street blessing telephone poles, so I was used to having harmlessly eccentric locals around.* Shortly after he left, my co-worker returned to retrieve the coat he'd left hanging in our office. He's a local guy, so I asked him if he knew the "cigarette butt" guy. He didn't know him. Next time I see the dude, I'll make it a point to introduce myself. I can sympathize with the guy, I'm a butt man myself.
It's a good thing to know the local characters... especially the one's who make impromptu calls at odd hours.
*One day, my boss' grandfather (everybody called him The Boss), a paisan's paisan from the old country, was walking down the street, and the good "father" blessed him with a grand, sweeping sign of the cross. When The Boss came through the door of the deli, his daughter-in-law yelled at him, "Why'd you let him do that? He's unauthorized." The Boss simply shrugged and said, "If it make-a him happy, 'sokay."