Beggars Banquet

I've been seeing more of them lately. The downtrodden. The jetsam. The scammers. They wait at intersections with their poorly spelled signs. They ask for "verbal abuse" for change. They offer "stress relief" by yelling at them for a buck. One sign I saw, propped in the window of a converted bus, let people know they could call the occupant a dirty hippie for something like $10. As tempting as all of that sounds, if I want to do it, I'll do it for free.

Those of us in the business know a lot of these folks already get monthly checks. Some of them have acquired budgeting skills and manage the make the checks last until the next one. Others have little impulse control or a habit to fulfill and that money is gone almost as soon as they get it. Either way, some of these people begging for your hard earned quarters don't need it or would only squander it if they had it. Not all. Many. Ride with anyone who knows and they can point out who gets SSI, SSD, VA money, GR. Not that those checks are always enough, but that needs to be taken into consideration.

Toward the end of the month these signs become more frequent. Everyone is low on dough. Some of them are going through withdrawals. Some have turned toward prostitution, but even that business has slowed down with the crap economy and police busts. The younger ones, dreads and Capitalist Casualties shirts crusted with filth, hover at the Bayshore Mall stoplight as their dogs threaten to run into traffic. (Can't feed yourself? Can the dog. It'll do better on its own.) They stay their until a regular comes, usually around the 25th of the month, and boots them to Arcata where the living is easier and the populace more sympathetic.

I was once asked by a man for a few bucks to help him get through the day. I was working for a little above minimum wage and had a new baby to take care. In this cretin's hand was a Starbucks cup. A big one. I estimated that his drink probably cost him about five bucks. It was still steaming. I imagine someone could've bought it for him or that he dug it out of the garbage, but I thought both scenarios were unlikely. I looked at the cup and shook my head. I declined to give him money I didn't have, but I wanted to launch into the fact that there was cheaper, better coffee two blocks away. I just didn't have it in me, though. You get asked so many times you just don't care.

Some of the folks around here, especially some of the ones who hit up Winco and the intersection by the Bayview, borrow each other's children in order to garner sympathy from passing motorists. I'm hoping the kids are taking this all in, seeing exactly how not to be, but I doubt it. Apples don't often fall far from the trees.

In Porter Street (a great bbq joint) we actually had one I've taken to calling Tinkerbell Skinflake based on his voice and skin condition ask us for money at our table. Just marched in to the restaurant and started walking from table to table. Thank God he didn't scratch his face. I would've lost it and put him through a window.

I'm not a big fan of the human race (shock upon shocks), but I'm even less of a fan of weakness. I know people who could really use extra money, who can't get a job due to disabilities either mental or physical, yet refuse to beg people walking by on the street. It's a matter of pride. Many of them even feel bad for cashing their monthly SSD checks.

I'd rather have my tax money go to disabled people instead of corporations. That's just me, though, and I know many don't feel that way. The beggars I encounter sometimes try to make me feel bad for my lack of giving, but I let it roll off my shoulders. I spend five days a week helping out those in need. "I gave at the office," is my refrain. I do it because I have to. I've even given out money when I can, but I gotta be rational about things. My .36 cents isn't going to help or hurt. Collectively, if everyone thought like I did, it would make a difference, but there are charities out there. There are people with far more money and heart than myself.

Me? I'm just tired of the misspelled signs. The evocation of God ("God bless and thanxs!"). The permission to degrade. Maybe in the future, when I'm writing full-time, I'll be able to toss a few bucks there way (and would have no problem doing it), but as of now I'm looking at this with honest eyes and seeing enough lack of responsibility, motivation and pride to make me wonder if I want to perpetuate that ... and I don't. Not today.

There but for the grace of a fictional God ...

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