Thursday, January 15, 2015

Haunted by Homeless

Cambridge, like many big cities, is full of people on the streets trying to sell you something or asking for money.  Let me first say, that I have no idea what is the ethically correct way to handle homeless people.  Should we give them money to buy food or whatever they need?  Or should we not give them money assuming the donation would just fund their meth habits?  I have no idea.  But if I did  hand out cash, I wouldn't be able to pick and choose who to give what and there are so many homeless people, I would go broke pretty quickly.   I also honestly never carry cash on me so I can legitimately say, "sorry, I got nothing."   I have become pretty good at avoiding eye contact with strangers and walking right on by (again, I am not sure if this is something to be proud of).  However, there is the occasional non-street person who says 'excuse me' or 'have a nice day' or needs directions, so I am not totally cold to everyone all the time.

One day a young, student-aged fellow comes up to me and says "Excuse me, miss!"  and I am thinking I dropped a glove or that he genuinely has a question he needs me to answer.  So I turn and give him my attention.  He follows up with:

 "Are you as awesome as you look?!"

Startled by his weird question, I look down and see he has a clipboard (red flag). The clipboard, the way he approached me, his weird question...... I come to the conclusion that he has an obvious alternative motive and I will not have any of it.  I will not give in to being bombarded by a sales pitch on the street and so in answer to his question I dishonestly respond:


He laughs

I walk on by.  Obviously, I do think I am as wonderful as I look and I appreciate him for recognizing my awesomeness (although I am sure he says that to EVERYONE).   I am however, willing to lie about self-esteem to avoid being guilted into signing up for monthly donations to Planned Parenthood.

Another day I walked passed a bum who was talking to a Harvard student saying " this guy walks into a bar..."  I look at the homeless man's sign.  It reads "Bad jokes!  4 for $1."   I wanted to wait and listen to the next three jokes, but I thought the bum might ask me for money...I did not have any cash on me and I did not want him to think I was enjoying his services for free.  So I kept walking...

Just recently, I was walking up the stairs out of the subway, or "the T" as the locals call it, and was moving pretty quickly when a grouchy bum yelled at me.  He sounded enraged.  His accent was similar to Chris Rock and his delivery was comparable to Christopher Walken.  He barked at me:  "Giddy up, ...jingle horse!!! ......Pick up, ...your FEET!!"  He was so loud and mad,  that my primary goal was to run away and then secondary to that I could figure out what he said.  As I double-jumped the steps to get some distance from the disgruntled character I sifted through what I thought I heard,  'Did he just call me a 'jingle horse?' ... What the heck is a jingle horse?' ... It took me a second.  Then I understood the reference.  He was just singing a Christmas song.

Yet, another day I walked past a garbage can with a young man sitting in it like a recliner chair with his legs hanging out.  Aside from the image of him sitting in a public garbage can, the man did not seem all that homeless.   He was holding a sign that said: "Extra Cash for Man in Trash?"

I drew you a picture:

Click Here and Listen to Faceman's song 'Fitting In' (its about garbage cans)

Clever....Funny.....I also did not give him any money.   But I did appreciate his humor.  At least for a minute or two.  After a few more blocks I started to get mad about this man in the trash, because "what if I had a piece of garbage I really needed to throw out?!"  Get out of the garbage can, come on, mister!

I have since expanded this man-in-the-trash image with my own creative take. Now every time I take out the trash to the communal apartment dumpster, which I imagine some bum has turned into his own private bedroom, I have an irrational vision that I am about to hit this fictional sleeping bum in the head with my dripping bag of garbage.  And that he is going to yell, jump up, and run after me.   It hasn't happened yet.  Let's hope it never does...


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