I love Intervention! Yes, the A&E program that takes pathetic people at the lowest points in their lives and blatantly exploits them in order to achieve basic cable ratings glory is one of my true joys.
Why do I adore this show so much? In a nutshell, no matter how much I abuse liquor or Valium or Ambien or Nitrous Oxide or Pruno (prison wine), Intervention makes me feel like I'm just not that bad. And no matter how much I fuck up in my work life or my personal life or my ability to function as a human being, Intervention makes me feel pretty damn normal.
Plus, there's that whole schadenfreude thing. Quite simply, I gain pleasure from seeing the misfortune of others. Yes, it's wrong and sadistic. But hey, I'll take pleasure wherever I can get it.
I've been entertained for years by such wonderful characters as Cristy, the alcoholic/meth head/stripper/conspiracy theorist; Chad, the cyclist that turned to crack after getting kicked off the Olympic cycling team for calling Lance Armstong "a doughboy"; and, perhaps my favorite, Allison, the computer duster huffer who's also apparently a big fan of Katrina and The Waves.
To me, they're celebrities. They're like Bukowski without the pen. They're like Amy Winehouse without the voice. They're like Robert Downey Jr. without the Iron Man suit. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I turned on Intervention and saw someone I actually know.
This episode was about Jason, who grew up in a seemingly perfect upper-middle class family in Littleton, Colorado. The Columbine High School shooters named him as one of the bullies they retaliated against. Overcome with guilt and grief for his dead classmates, he got hooked on heroin. Now, Jason lives on the streets of Denver and his family is in pieces.
How, you may ask, do I know this junkie with a heart of gold? Well, my friends, Jason was a panhandler at my local Walgreens. Since I was banned from both Safeway and King Soopers for my instructional piece entitled "Stealing from Grocery Stores", I'd go to Walgreens nearly everyday to purchase Gatorade and Easy Mac and Magnums and Snuggies for Dogs.
Every time I'd leave my beloved drugstore, Jason would walk up with some tall tale cleverly designed to get me to give him money so he could buy drugs. He ran out of gas or his wallet got stolen or he's collecting for Greenpeace or he's hungry. Now I don't give money to bums, especially ones I see everyday. I believe they should go to a shelter or their parents' house or anywhere that doesn't involve me. Or, they should get a job or at least give handjobs in the park.
So, Jason and I came to an understanding. He would ask me for money with a lie and I would decline with a lie. I left my wallet at home or I just spent my last dollar on Nicorette Mini Lozenges or I invested with Bernie Madoff or I'm addicted to heroin. Then, both of us would go on our way.
I really knew nothing about Jason other than the fact that he was a pretty hard-working beggar. So, when I saw him on Intervention, it was great. I learned that he shot up at least six times a day, that he passed up a scholarship to CSU, and most importantly, that he was gonna get some help. I like seeing people fucked up, but I also like knowing they'll get better. There's nothing like a hobo story with a happy ending.
About a year after the Intervention episode aired, I went to Walgreens to purchase some Sanka and Axe Bodyspray. When I walked out, guess whose "car broke down on the way to Fort Collins"? Yes, it was my old friend Jason who "just needed a couple of bucks to get home." So much for the happy ending.
Outside of our little "I want money/I don't want to give you money" dance, Jason and I had never really spoken. This time however, I broke the wall and said, "I saw you on Intervention!"
At first he tried to deny it, but when I pulled up his picture from Intervention's website (which I had conveniently bookmarked on my iPhone), he knew he was caught. He was kind of pissed.
Obviously, when you're jonesing for opiates, the last thing you want to do is make small talk, but it seemed like this had happened before. It was as if being on Intervention had ruined his life (not the drugs). His ability to panhandle and pass himself off as a non-junkie was blown by his appearance on reality television. I actually felt bad for him.
Jason sacrificed himself for my entertainment. Without men and women like him, there would be no Intervention. He exposed his life so I would have something to watch on Mondays at 8/7C. He opened his heart to me and he shared his love through the wonders of television. That deserved at least some sort of reward, right? I could have given him all the cash in my wallet. I could have given him my jacket to keep him warm. I could have given him my car.
Nah, I just decided to tell him the truth -- I don't give money to bums, famous or not. Then we both went on our way. I'm sure I'll see him the next time I need Immodium.