See, when I arrived in Pittsburgh this week, on Monday, after interviewing for a job at Hyland Software in Cleveland (I got the job btw, woo!), I was at the Greyhound station, the epitome of callow youth, wandering around bleary-eyed.
John saw me walking around, asked me for the time. He was average height, weight, whatever… black guy, looked a little scraggly but you couldn’t really tell… except his teeth. They were all messed up. I told him the time, then he asked “what are you looking for?” I explained my plight. He introduced himself and walked me over to Fifth Ave. where I could catch my bus. He was a kind old guy, like your nice uncle or something. Then (and who saw this one coming?) he asked me for some money.
Voice A: Don’t give him money! They always told you that. Even at your catholic high school. Be compassionate, direct them to help, don’t give them money.
Voice B: But…
A: He’ll just spend it on booze. Or drugs, or worse.
B: But that…
A: Downtown is shady. You take out your wallet full of suburban-white-kid money, everyone will know you’re loaded. If they don’t already.
B: But he…
A: It’s obvious psychological techniques. You’re learning about it in 85-102. Foot in the door: he asks you for the time, then money, you give him some. Reciprocity: he helps you, you feel obligated to help him.
Me: Sorry, man, I don’t have any money with me.
John: Come on man, just one dollar, that’s all I ask.
A: Look, “just $1” he says. You can’t buy any food for that, it’s just for his next drink. Besides, you can’t give him money now, you just said you don’t have any.
B: But it’s just…
A: Fine. Give him a dollar. Then get on your damn bus.
(I give John $1 and get on the bus)
B: Fuck! You gave him $1? Look, the guy needs help! Give him a few bucks. Or there’s a Wendy’s around the corner, buy him dinner. He just walked down, I dunno, 5 blocks out of his way to help you out. If, say, a cab driver did that, you’d give him a couple bucks tip. You can’t assume he’s some subhuman because he’s a beggar. He didn’t look or smell like a drunk or a druggie, maybe that’s all part of his scheme, but damn! Your taking his directions and giving him a measly dollar doesn’t help anyone.
On this day of silence, here’s a silent internet modern secular blog-bullshit prayer. Sorry John, I shouldn’t have stiffed you like that. Hope you’re doing all right. Maybe you just totally fooled me with your ruse, and you’re a mugger or a nasty liar, but I hope you’re just honestly trying to get by.
So if you’re downtown and a black guy named John with bad teeth helps you out, … I don’t know what. Help him out too.
that’s ok… it’s really hard to know what to do sometimes with beggars. i give them some money but not too much.. i just like the feeling of pure honesty and i hope the man asking me is being honest.
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