Panhandlers, hobos, tramps, the homeless, smelly man with crazy eyes, and outdoor adventurer are all things we call those men we meet at the train station and outside of food carts. They tend to have a lot in common. Big clothes, dirty ski caps, unshaven, really the only difference between them and a college kid is that panhandlers get up earlier.
I like the term panhandler the best. It conjures up a funny image in my head of a dirty old man holding out a pan asking for change. Where did he get the pan? Does he have a pot? Does he use it to cook or just to collect money? If he uses it just for money, can’t he get a popcorn bag for cheaper? Did he start off using his hands and then purchase the pan? Why is Peter Pan called that? Was he a hobo? Yes. He broke into the bedrooms of children.
I try not to ever give money to people who ask for it. This is a rule that I have for both strangers and people I know. Neither of them will pay it back, I’ve learned that. People I know have learned not to ask me for money. I’ll fuss to them about it. It’s the panhandlers that need to learn and to you I dedicate this advice.
When panhandling, don’t make up a bullshit story. Were you really visiting your mother in the hospital and lose your wallet? How inconvenient, I guess there’s no way to pay her bill. Why do you smell like urine? The homeless must think everyone is as stupid as they are. I’ve lost a lot of things in my life. Socks, pens, respect for others, but never a wallet. And not only that, I would never lose it while I was out of town. That’s all I think about when I’m away from home. Do I have my keys, phone, and wallet? Yes! Then I’m good. Spare me the sob story Mr. Bojangles. Even if it was true I wouldn’t really care.
Another trick of the trade they have is being honest. They’ll say they’re down on their luck and need the money for food. One fat guy tried this with me, saying he needed a piece of pizza and I turned him down. He called me a stupid fucking bitch. I rub a ten dollar bill against my cheek as I type. Who’s the fucking bitch now fatty? Honesty is a good thing, but still, I don’t really care. How awful of a human were you that you don’t have a single supporter? I can name a good 20 people that I haven’t spoken to in years that would feel bad enough and help me out and I don’t even leave the house most days yet this shit can’t find ONE person to give him a buck? Hmmm maybe there’s a reason you’re homeless. I’m willing to admit that sometimes people do fall on hard times. It seems pretty hard to fall that far down the cracks. You used drugs and alcohol and pushed away your family and now I need to buy you a cheeseburger. I’ve got my own expenses sir. Magazine subscriptions and high mileage oil changes aren’t cheap. I’m terribly sorry that your life turned out the way it did and if mine ever goes that way then I will understand. The thing of it is, I try to be nice to people I meet. I take care of them and of myself. You can’t possibly have been that stupid to be that nasty to everyone.
There are some beggars that try and be funny. There’s a guy in NYC that has a sign that says he needs the money for beer and drugs. This works for him which is funny because he probably really will end up killing himself with those items. But it works and I’ve seen people give him money. I’ve met a homeless guy that said he told trivia questions for a living. He had one and it was about 1970s Olympic boxing. At least this guy was trying. It’s hard with so many homeless to decide who to give your nickel to. They swarm you like you’ve got a cracker and they’re all goats. It can be frightening when you’re just trying to do a good deed and help out someone less fortunate.
My biggest problem with them is how they get my attention. It’s never polite or the way I would want someone to start a conversation with me. Don’t say “Yo” or call me “Bud.” You’re not hip and I’m not your buddy. The worst though is that when my back is to them they’ll eventually yell “Hey big guy!” Big guy? Do they not know that I have had a weight problem in my past? This bothers me and automatically makes all of the change in my pocket disappear. For your information, I am 5’9 175 pounds. There’s nothing big about that. My shoulders are weak and my pants are too baggy for them to see my strong thighs. DO NOT call me big guy prick. It’s offensive and makes me question my own appearance. Shame on you!
Sometimes I have and still do give out money to people in need. I know it’s stupid to do and they’re turning me into a rube, but I do it anyway. Sometimes it make me feel better about myself. One dollar or a couple of cents out of my pocket won’t hurt me. Maybe they’re one of the honest ones who really did go on vacation 20 years ago and got swindled into a Ponzi Scheme that stole all of their money. Anything is possible.
It sucks that there has to be people out there that need to be dependent on people like me for support. It sucks for me and it sucks for them. I’ve been smart enough to know not to waste my money on things that will fuck up my life. It’s one of the few things I’ve done right. Things will probably get worse before they get better, if they ever do get better. If you’re not already homeless, or I guess even if you are, heed this advice. Be nice to everyone you meet. Even if you can’t stand them, show respect and be there for them. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, the people that work anywhere you frequent, be patient and respectful because these are the same people that do and will continue to help you out when you’re being a whiny little shit. They can offer you shelter and food and that means more life. In the end, all we want is more life. Maybe one day the homeless will be the most polite people in the world. Then they will be hired over all of the snotty currently employed due to their kindness and the tables will turn. When that day comes, buy stock in shopping carts. They love those things.