It’s in the asking…

Yesterday as I was walking home from work I was approached by a man with a paper cup in his hand saying “excuse me,  I’ve left my little niece in the McDonald’s on 14th and I have to buy her food because her mother is at work but I don’t have any money can you help me she’s really hungry and I have to get her some food and I can’t leave her alone much longer”.  Yes, it really was all one long rapidly fired sentence.

The guy was about a mile from the McDonald’s but at least we were walking in the right direction, and who would leave a “little niece” on her own and wander so far from where you’re going to spend the money?  But, whatever,  while I was dithering over a response thinking that his story was crap and he should just ask me for money, he fell into line with me and said “well, I’m going to tell you some jokes” and proceeded to tell lame ones like “what did the fish say when it swam into a wall?  Dam!  You get it?  he was in a dam”.   “What do you call a deer with no eye?   No ideer” and a couple more that I don’t remember before finishing up with his pièce de résistance:   “what’s the best nation in the world”?    Donation.   Can you give me one – my little niece is really starving”.

I did dig around and find some change for him but I felt conned even though I wasn’t being conned because I knew he was playing me – though I suppose I was conned because I did give him money.  But,  I was really, really annoyed that once he had the money, he turned around and walked in the opposite direction of the McDonald’s!

The other week a guy gave me a tulip for my dollar.  Admittedly, it probably wasn’t his to “sell”, (it had half a dirt-covered bulb still attached)  but his schtick was smoother –  “a flower for a flower” type of thing – and it didn’t make me feel conned or annoyed;  it brought a smile to my face.



25 responses

  1. My feeling is that my decision is solely whether or not to give them money. Once I give it away, it’s theirs… and their right to spend it as they wish.

    You wouldn’t believe the argument that caused at a 4th of July party one year.

      • Yeah, I don’t really mind what they spend the money on – it just annoyed me that he felt he had to give this (unlikely) story to get money. I’m just as likely to give money if someone asks “can you spare some change” . I wondered how many people might give money to this guy just to get him to stop trotting along next to them telling these really silly jokes. .

        • I know I would have given money to get rid of a guy in my apt complex (20 yrs ago) who’d tell old/bad jokes at the pool. And to get the punchline “HoboSexual” out of my head – since I can’t remember the setup.

  2. I have a “program” where I give my change to anybody who asks. I do it because I once had to panhandle (in my very younger years). I have to admit, I told some fibs, too — nothing like somebody was starving/ dying but I *did* use the money for FOOD (and smokes). My brother says that I’m a mark (because they “always” have some story) but like you, it’s not the story I fell for. I was going to give them my change anyway and it’s only change.

    • In winter I keep change in my coat pocket so it’s easy to get out to give. I don’t like having to go into my handbag for money – my bag is so messy I’m digging around in there for ages.

      • Since I rarely “go” anywhere (living so remotely, you don’t see panhandlers unless you’re in the city and I don’t mean a town but CITY) anymore, so it doesn’t come up as often as it did before but yeah. Digging in a purse isn’t good!

  3. I would have felt conned in that situation.

    Just yesterday I was talking to someone who has lived in DC all her life who said when she sees someone begging she asks them if they need food, and she will take them somewhere and buy them food (if they agree) but she will never give them money because she doesn’t want to support someone’s drug habit. (She thinks that most people who end up on the street also end up with a drug habit.)

    I personally have not developed a modus operandi for when I’m asked for money so I usually don’t give anything.

    • I’ve seen people offer food or metro tickets to those asking for money (especially to those telling a story about trying to catch the train home or to an interview) – they’re usually “told off” for their trouble.

  4. That is the oldest line in the book. Some variation on “my kid, no money, my kid, car busted, my kid, nowhere to go, my kid, need food, my kid.”

    I don’t usually give money to people who approach me for it. But my one weakness? Limbless, homeless, veterans. They don’t have to ask. I just empty my wallet of all the cash I have, every time.

    • There was a period of nearly 2 weeks where I saw the same guy every afternoon at the metro station asking for money to get home at the end of the line. I never saw anyone give him any and was tempted a couple of times to ask if he ever thought he was going to get home.

      It’s awful that so many veterans find themselves in the position of having to ask for money. I don’t see any who identify themselves as veterans on my normal weekday routes – I think they tend to be in the more touristy areas.

  5. There are so many panhandlers in San Francisco, some of them very aggressive, that I throw up a “don’t hear you” shield when I walk through certain areas like the Piers or near the Civic Center. However, it was extremely disturbing when I saw this young woman in the subway in New York begging for money while holding up a baby. My daughter said she had seen the same baby with a different woman, so apparently they were using the baby as a “prop” for their story. We wondered if “someone” shouldn’t call Child Protective Services, especially since in New York there are many private service organizations that offer assistance to mothers with infants. My son-in-law thought that the young “mother” might have been an addict, and we should call the police the next we saw her. I don’t know what happened: the next day the woman and baby were gone and didn’t reappear, not while I was in town anyway. I’m still a little haunted by the sight of that baby, however. I wonder what became of it, and what his life will be like with his mother or whoever was holding him up to strangers for money that day.

    • Oh yes – I’ve seen the same baby “trick” in San Diego. We stayed there for 3 or 4 days & every time we walked out of the hotel the same baby was there with different women or very young girls. Poor little thing was in a horrible dirty stroller and one evening police came and asked the “mother” for ID and searched the stroller before taking them away. Hopefully a better situation resulted for the baby.

  6. I knew someone who would get gift cards in $2 to $5 amounts from McDonalds and places like that (basically her change rounded up to the nearest dollar), and she’d hand them out to panhandlers. I always thought that was a clever idea … and she was often cursed at because apparently liquor stores don’t accept fast food gift cards.

    • Yeah, I’ve seen the same reaction towards commuters who’ve offered left over fare cards to people asking for money to get home on the trains. I’m shocked that Macca’s cards won’t “buy” a bottle of plonk 🙂

  7. I once gave money to a guy sitting on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign “Need fuel for my Lear jet”. Also to a guy with kitties on a leash, and a guy whose sign said “Why lie — I want beer money!”

    • LOL – @ beer money. I’m pretty sure anyone asking for money outside a liquor store in my area is hoping to get enough for a single. I’ve seen a guy with a dog, a kitten and a mouse doing a little sidewalk show for money – he was raking it in!

    • Hello! I had to run over to your site to make sure it was you 🙂 I *think* we do have something similar to Big Issue but at our Metro stations there are free daily newspapers so it would be difficult for anyone to sell a paper.

  8. I suspect everyone because I am basically mean and evil. I never donate to anyone on the street. As a teacher I am always being hit up by students for whatever the latest fund raiser is, and while I donate to some, at other times I use the excuse that I don’t carry money at school (I leave my handbag in my car boot for safety during the day, of course if my car gets stolen then I will really be sunk!)

    • It would worry me leaving my handbag in the boot. I’d be stressing about it all day – I’d imagine someone saw me put it in there! We have a “rule” at work about soliciting – if people want to sell chocolates for schools etc they have to only do it in the kitchen – it’s easier to ignore. Previously I always felt like I should buy something if a mother/grandmother brought it to my desk and I bought nasty chocolates, ugly candles and “cookies” I’d never normally buy.

  9. Mrs GOF has had her generosity abused on several occasions too by con artists……to her credit she still considers all requests on their merits although her groundrules have now been tightened.

  10. I would agree with Hangaku Gozen. In Dc too panhandlers are very agressive, at least those who accost me and many I have recognized as having asked me for money before. Charity in the right place is a virtue, but it treads a fine line between a gift and an entitlement.

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