When Katie and I lived in Albuquerque, it was a regular occurrence to see a homeless person walking in the street on Central Avenue. They’d be strolling casually, acting as if they were unaware that they were stopping traffic and creating havoc. Horns would be blaring, people would be shouting, but the person in the street would stroll along until they sensed that they’d pushed things as far as they could go.
Central is only a two-lane road for most of it’s length, but it runs the entire length of the city. It’s part of historic Route 66, and while the modern highway system has taken up most of the traffic, it’s still an important street. There are businesses, shops, and restaurants, not to mention government offices, all up and down it. A lot of people have to use it to get where they’re going. It attracts a lot of tourists as well, especially since there are more than a few Breaking Bad locations directly on it or just off of it.
So there’s a lot of significance, and a lot of power, to a homeless person stopping traffic. You have a car, and they have nothing, but they can hold you up. You have a job to get to, and they’ve got nowhere particular to be, but they can make you late. Where you have money to go shopping or out to eat, they have to panhandle or hope there’s enough to go around at the soup kitchen, but they can still exercise this minimal amount of agency to inconvenience you.
There’s not a lot that they can do to make their own situation better.
But they can make your life a little bit worse.
And that, I think, is the perfect metaphor for just about everything going on in the world right now.