Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Turned Down by a Homeless Man

Lest you think I was rejected when I asked a homeless man for a date, read on.

Many times in this great city you will come across people who beg for food or money, mostly money. It can happen 3, 5, 10 times a day or more. Sometimes it's hard because you feel like a chump when someone comes right up to your face asking for change and you just ignore them. But I have decided to do what I can and try not to feel bad otherwise. Hey, I can't change the whole world.

I'd say that most of these encounters occur on the subway train. It's illegal to panhandle on the train but people do it anyway so there you go. It's hard telling a homeless and possibly crazy person that panhandling is illegal, if you choose to talk to them at all. The thing about the train is that when people start begging, you can't leave. And if you move, you can't go very far. So it makes it a little awkward and is much easier to ignore if you have a book you can pretend you are grossly absorbed in. Some people are nice and say "ok, have a nice day" when you turn them down. Other people launch into a big lecture on how you have a job, how you have money. How is it that you can't spare a dime? You never know when you'll be in this situation and then who's going to help you then? They might go further to ask how you can just sit there and pretend you can't hear. I know you can hear! Stop pretending, you rich people going to your nice homes. Toss in a racial slur and we have a typical day on the train. Now, what they say in these lectures might be true but I am vehemently against using guilt as means to get money from people. Maybe people DO have change to spare or maybe they happen to not have a dime on them. Who knows? Either way, it's their choice and if they want to give some away, great. If not, that's their choice and we must respect it. That's how I feel. Don't lecture me. And besides, you're a lot less likely to get any money doing that, so it's just a poor persuasion tactic.

Saturday was a day unlike no other. Sean and I were riding the train home when a homeless man, slightly dirty, very furry, but seemed sane enough, got on and began asking people for food. I have an easier time when people ask for food, though i often don't have any on me. Maybe that's why; I have an excuse. Hmm. Anyway, he went on about how he'd take anything. Anyone have a spare sandwich? Anything at all? I realized I had a baggie of grapes in my bag and thought i could spare them. So I got them and kind of held them out for the man to see them. Here's what he said when he did:

"Oh, no thanks. I'm going to get some Chinese food when I get off this train. I don't really like fruit. I'm more of a meat and potatoes man."

He totally turned me down! I realize grapes aren't the most filling thing and I hate to say "beggars can't be choosers" but what the hey? I sat there a little stunned. Oookaaaay... I slowly put them back in my bag. And what was with the "going to get some Chinese food..."? Sean and I supposed that he was possibly collecting food for later on. But still. It was really really strange. I even felt slightly embarrassed. Maybe people around me were like, your crap grapes aren't even good enough for a homeless man! Maybe I felt bad for my grapes. Sean said he felt a little embarrassed for the man, like we exposed him as a fake. It was just really weird. Like, oh, I didn't realize I was to have some stew in my bag to spare. Right?? So strange. What are your thoughts? I'm still not sure what I think about it.

7 comments:

ash said...

As a grape lover, I would have snatched up your bag of crap grapes in a second. But all kidding aside, what a strange turn of events. I thought about it for a while and put myself in his shoes. If I was indeed homeless and begging for food, and if I did indeed say I'd take "anything ... anything at all," I would take what was offered to me. Even if I didn't like it. Even if I was allergic. I'd still take it.

Brooke said...

Dude, there is no rhyme or reason when it comes to the folk on the street. You think you're being very logical or kind or whatever, and they just pay you back by not accepting your grape offering. You did what you could. How were you to know he was headed to a sweet and sour pork dinner? Weird.

gary said...

Hmm..I'd take it too but I think that he just really didn't like fruits, like he said. Maybe he's like my cousin Siouxzy (yes, that's how she spells it- pronounced "Suzy") who has always hated fruits. Her brothers always teased her with banana peels and such (seriously). Anyway, I think he was just hoping for some good food and the grapes didn't cut it. And he didn't care if he sounded inconsistent because he'll never see you again. Who knows? `

jen said...

yeah. I mean, he was really nice and all about it. Still... i mean, i don't know. I guess i don't know what it's like since i've never begged for food. :) He was being honest. And if he was just goingto throw the grapes away, then hey man, give them back, because they were good grapes!

I guess it was just uncharacteristic of a homeless person, to me, and it took me off guard. If he would have been angry and thrown them at me or something or thrown them away right then and there i would have been ticked. But he didn't. Still, what are the chances someone going's to give him their sandwich they just bought at the deli. It was a little impolite, i guess, is what it was. Doesn't he know homeless person etiquette?

jen said...

someone going's. I'm cool.

Michelle said...

That is a pretty funny story. I'm not sure what to make of it all. I am just fasinated by your day to day encounters! What would I do?!

One time, Brian and I pulled into a spot at the mall and I was about ready to get out when Brian said, 'don't scream.' ...cuz he knows how jumpy I can be and the littlest unexpected thing. And I look out the passenger window and there is a begger right there at the window totally stooped and freaky looking. It was hilarious. Brian was like, 'what would have happened if I didn't tell you not to scream. ahahah.

Another thing that makes me laugh is Siouxzy. haha. That is great!

Rob said...

Were the green or purple grapes? I mean, if they were green I could totally understand where the guy is comming from, but turning down purple grapes?!?! -the guys is probably on drugs.