I parked my car at the bank Tuesday morning to deposit some money and then I was going to walk across the street to the post office.
I saw a bedraggled brother crossing the street, absentmindedly tugging at the ragged mess of twists on his dusty head. I watched people look past him like he wasn't there though their body language cleared showed they were aware of his presence and hoped he would stay away.
He asked a few people for a dime. Then he asked someone else for three dollars. I got out of my car and he asked me for three dollars so he could get a $3 plate at some diner. I paused. He quickly walked much closer to me. Too close.
I once tried to get a job as a panhandler.
That's not what I thought it was of course. I thought I was going to be helping missing kids...
It was a college summer. I needed some cash and had no experience in anything yet, so I called the number on a Classified ad saying "Help missing kids! Earn money" something like that.
I thought I'd be in an office stuffing envelopes and filing paperwork for people who were investigating kidnapping crimes.
I called, got an interview and went the next day dressed for an interview the way any intelligent, Ivy league college student would do. I met the man at an office, I remember he was a white man with big, red hair.
Next thing I knew, I was in a car with him and a tiny, skinny white woman driving way out into nowhere -- Queens. What the hell was I thinking you ask? I don't know.
Anyway, he dropped us off at a giant DMV in Queens. I was a Brooklyn girl. I didn't know ANYTHING about Queens and didn't care to. I just know we were near the airport -- note, there are TWO airports in Queens... on opposite sides of the borough. Then, the woman I was with, who looked about 12 and was dressed in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and some sneakers takes a can out of her duffle bag and starts "working."
"Good morning ma'am, we're trying to collect money to help missing kids..." In an hour or so, she had a wad of bills.
Then, it was my turn. Ugh. People ignored me, said no, rudely rebuffed me. It doesn't matter if they did give me money. I was panhandling for God's sake!!! I don't why it took me so long to figure that out.
The woman's "co-worker" showed up. A little black woman. I think I figured it out. You get people who look like kids to beg for money. Then, at the end of the day, they split up the take. Sick.
I said See ya! and found a bus that went to a blessed subway station to take me back to Brooklyn. I was near LaGuardia. Thank God for the F train.
I've heard stories about panhandlers in New York really being wealthy people trying to bilk idiots out of cash. I heard horror stories of good Samaritans being attacked by panhandlers they were giving money to. I always pretended I didn't see the regulars on the train I rode to work when I had a real job. And, of course, people always said they just go get high anyway, keep your money.
But, we don't know these people. Maybe they are trying to get something to eat. People always say, "I'll get them something to eat, but I'm not giving them money." That's real nice, except I've NEVER seen anyone go to a deli, get a sandwich and then walk back two blocks to give it to the homeless man that asked for a dollar.
So, I gave the guy outside the bank $5 -- so he could get a "cola with the $3 plate."
Maybe he went to get high right after that. Maybe at the end of the day of panhandling, he went home to a big house, took a shower and laughed about the gullible sister outside the bank.
I don't know.
I don't make it a habit of handing people money. But, once in a while,is it so terrible? Shoot. Maybe he just got his $3 plate somewhere. I don't know. Should I care?
What would you do?