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In big cities like New York, you can find homeless women with shopping bags wandering on the streets. They choose to live in an isolated, mistrustful world of their own. They are called lady hermits or just shopping-bag ladies.
Lady Hermits Who Are Down But Not Out
Every large city has its shifting population of vagrants. But in most cases these are men, usually with an unhealthy appetite for alcohol. Only New York, it seems, attracts this peculiar populace of lone and homeless women who live in an isolated, mistrustful world of their own.
Shopping-bag ladies do not drink. They do not huddle together for warmth and companionship like bums. They do not seem to like one another very much. Neither are they too keen on conventional people. Urban hermits, one sociologist has called them. They will send their days and nights in the same neighborhood for months on end, then disappear as inexplicably as they came. They know the hours when restaurants put their leftovers in the garbage cans where they search for food. And local residents, seeing the same bag lady on the same corner every day, will slip her some change as they pass.
Shopping-bag ladies do not overtly beg, but they do not refuse what is offered. Once a shopping-bag lady becomes a figure of your neighborhood, it is as hard to pass her by without giving her some money as it is to ignore the collection box in church. And although you may not like it, if she chooses your doorway as her place to sleep in the night, it is as morally hard to turn her away as it is a lost dog.
There are various categories of bag ladies: those who live on the streets, claiming they enjoy the freedom from constraints of society; those who became homeless because a relative died or because they couldn't keep up rent payments, and they didn't know where to go or how to apply for relief; and quasi bag ladies who have an anchor point —— a sister or brother whom they can visit once in a while to take a bath.
Most shopping-bag ladies seem to be between the ages of 40 and 65. They wear layers of clothes even in summer time, with newspapers stuffed between the layers as further protection against bad weather In general, the more bags the ladies carry the better organist bad weather. In general, the more bags the ladies carry the better organised they are to cope with life on the streets.
"You may think I have a lot of garbage in these bags," one shopping-bag lady volunteered over lunch in a church soup kitchen, "but it's everything I need. Extra clothes, newspapers for the cold." Shopping-bag ladies are not very communicative and take general conversation as an intrusion. But after a while, warmed by chicken soup, she began to speak.
"The place is nice," she volunteered, "people are friendly. Most New Yorkers are very cold. I have sisters in the city, but when you grow up, each goes his own way. Right?"
"I go out a lot because of my teeth. You know how it is: you pick up something in a restaurant and your teeth turn rotten, no matter how careful you are. People aren't considerate. The restaurants don't wash the glasses properly, and before you know where you are you have caught it. That's what happened to me. I don't like meeting people until I have this dental work done. So I go out to forget my troubles. I sit a little while somewhere, have something to eat at one of these places, then go wherever I have to go. I take all my things with me because you can't trust people."
The story of the dental work was a typical shopping-bag lady fantasy. Psychiatrists say that even after long interviews shopping-bag ladies are still at a loss to separate truth from imagination.
One quasi bag lady spends about eight hours every day at the foot of the main escalator in a railroad station, although she rents a room in a cheap hotel in the neighborhood. One of the priests from the nearby church found this lodging for her after he discovered that she was entitled to a small disability pension which she had never claimed. But every day from about nine to five, she still takes a milk crate and sits by the station escalator, not doing anything or talking to anyone. It's like a job to her.
No one knows how many shopping-bag ladies there are in New York. The figure is going up. Some priests, nuns and researchers spend a great deal of time shepherding or observing shopping-bag ladies and are doing what they can to better the life of the lady hermits who are down.
n. person who avoids other people and lives alone 隐士
vi. move from one place, position, etc. to another 转移，移动
n. person who lives a wandering life with no steady home or work 流浪者
n. desire or wish, esp. for food 食欲，胃口
vt. draw towards oneself 吸引
a. unusual; strange 奇特的；奇怪的
n. population; the common people
a. without other people or things 孤独的
vt. separate from others 使隔离，使孤立
a. lacking confidence or trust
vi. crowd together 挤作一团
n. the state or quality of being warm
n. wandering beggar 游民，叫化子
a. eager, anxious to do things 热心的，渴望的
a. following accepted practices, customs, and standards 习俗的，寻常的
n. a person who studies societies and human behavior in groups 社会学家
n. a group of people and their homes forming a small area within a larger place 街坊，四邻
ad. in a way not capable of explanation
n. (used with a pl, v.) food remaining uneaten after a meal
n. waste material; rubbish; scraps of food to be thrown away
n. person living in a place permanently, not just a visitor 居民
vt. give or pay secretly 悄悄给
ad. publicly 公开地
n. the gathering of money at a religious service; money collected 募捐；募金
a box for the collection of money, esp. one passed from hand to hand in church 奉献箱
ad. with regard to right behavior 道德上
n. class 种类
vt. declare to be true; ask for as a right; take as a rightful owner 声称；要求；认领
n. sth. that limits one's freedom of action 拘束
n. money paid regularly for the use of a room, building, or piece of land 租金
vt. pay at regular times for the use of (property)租用
n. the amount of money (to be) paid
n. help given to people in trouble 救济
a. half; seeming 半，准
vt. fill tightly with 把……塞满
n. the act of protecting or the state of being protected
vi. deal successfully with a difficult situation 对付，应付
vt. tell or say without being asked; make a willing offer 主动讲；自愿提供
a. ready and willing to talk or give information 愿意交谈的
n. (an) informal talk 谈话
n. coming unasked and unwanted (often suggesting rudeness and invasion of privacy)侵犯；打扰
a. having gone bad 腐烂的；腐朽的
a. thoughtful of the rights or feelings of others 体谅的
a. of or for the teeth
conj. in, at, or to whatever place
n. any strange mental image or illusion; wild imagination 怪念头；幻想
n. doctor who treats mental and emotional disorders 精神病医生
n. the act or example of losing sth.
n. a (temporary) place to live （临时）住所（使）暂住，（使）寄宿
vt. give the right to 给……以权利
n. the condition of being unable to perform a task or function because of a physical or mental impairment 伤残
n. regular payment made (by a government or a company) to sb. old, retired, or disabled 养老金；退休金；抚恤金
n. a plastic or wooden tray divided into sections for carrying bottles of milk, beer, etc. 篮，篓，箱
vt. take care of guide or direct (people) like sheep 看护；带领
PHRASES & EXPRESSIONS
interested in, fond of
go past; pay no attention to 从……旁走过；忽视
refuse to allow (sb.) to enter 将……拒之门外
once in a whole
sometimes; but not often 间或，偶尔
in most cases; usually 通常
deal effectively with 善于处理
not matter how/what, etc.
however, whatever, etc.
at a loss
uncertain what to do or say; confused 不知所措；因惑
be entitled to
have the right to