October 29th, 2003

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11:43 am - on "actual" bums...
so in the midst of my own personal employment troubles, I went out for sushi with beststephi, max1975 and anisodragnfly yesterday. Jenn paid as a pick-me-up for me, so many thanx to her. Mmmm... I love sushi. Anyway, something happened after that that inspired me to write 1000 words of free flowing hostility:

So walking back to the car after dinner, Steph and I were approached by a “bum.” Up until then he was talking to a group of about six white guys (I’m not sure if they were friends of his, or other prospective marks) but as we passed he stepped aside from them and went into the standard bum routine. “Hey man, hey, can I get some change? Can you help me out? Can you spare some change?” Now, this was a black man, maybe in his 40s, wearing casual clothing in good repair, talking casually to six white guys and he turns to me to ask for change. The man was carrying a goddamn pizza. Nigga Please! How the hell are you gonna stand there with a fucking box of pizza and a slice in your mouth and beg someone for change. Motherfucker should be giving me change.

Now I joke about being a bum what with my employment problems, but even I am not sitting out on a street corner begging. And if I were going to do so, I would at least have the decency to look the part while I was doing it. That means that you go that extra mile. You fuck up your hair, wear some ripped jeans, roll around in the mud to pick up some dirt. Stop fucking bathing for a day or two. If you are going to be a “homeless guy” then put some fucking effort into it goddamn it!

Now I don’t really have a problem with guys who fake homelessness. Hell, if I could keep myself in the lifestyle in which I’m accustomed by sitting outside of Yum Wok with a paper coffee cup and begging for spare change, then I would. Lord knows this whole e.com.merce/software developer gig that I’ve been doing these last few years isn’t exactly a growth industry anymore. But sadly, I don’t think I’m really cut out for it. It turns out that I don’t much like sitting around and doing nothing all day. It also turns out that I sort of have this little hang up where I kind of like to bathe and groom myself at least semi-regularly. And really, begging is a people oriented industry, and frankly, people fucking suck. Professional begging is basically only one step above telemarketing. See, some people would say that beggars are lower than telemarketers. But they’re not, because the homeless beggar is his own boss. He’s a self-made man such that he is. The telemarketer on the other hand is just a ho that is pimped out by the Man.

And really, don’t think that being a beggar is all that bad a gig. So long as you’re willing to put the work into it, and really look the part, you can really do well. There used to be this guy who used to beg outside of the Unimart that used to be on the corner of Craig and Forbes. A Puerto Rican guy, a bit on the stocky side, maybe 26 years old. Let’s call him Gus. So Gus used to hang out and beg all day. You never realize how much money a street beggar can get. But you have to figure if they can average a dollar every five minutes, that’s twelve bucks an hour, which beats the hell out of working at McDonalds. So on an average day, that’s pretty close to one hundred bucks. Totally tax free. After a particularly good day, Gus could be found at PHI (Panther Hollow Inn, a dive bar in Oakland) buying a round of drinks for everyone. I guess its what you’d call sharing the wealth. He began wearing a very nice, very expensive looking Raiders starter jacket. I don’t know what made Gus such a good beggar, but between the nice clothes and the buying of drinks for everyone, you had to assume that he was doing ok. If he was doing better than my original estimate. Say he was making $3 every 5 minutes. That puts him around the $75K a year mark. And this is all tax free. Gus disappeared after a year or two. I like to think he invested well and retired before he was 30.

But Gus had a strange begging style. Basically, he didn’t really make any pretenses that he wasn’t doing ok. In fact he was the kind of guy who didn’t even really beg, so much as sit on the corner with a cup and wait for people to dump money into it. And people would just do it. I never understood why, and I never gave him any money myself, but you had to just have respect for his ability. But I never gave Gus a dime, and I sure as hell was not going to give a bloody blue cent to a man who had the utter gall to ask me for spare change while holding a fucking box of pizza in his hands.

I actually don’t generally give money to any bums. Maybe its because I feel like a bum myself, but really, I’ve never been the type to give money to bums. So I think it must be that my heart is as cold and dark as coal. That’s right, I’m dead inside. Maybe the guy begging is really a homeless Viet Nam vet who became disabled keeping our country safe but now he’s down on his luck. Or maybe he has a six-bedroom home, a Ferrari and yacht. You can never tell. I always kind of assume the latter. But maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe begging is where it’s at. So I think I’m gonna try this whole programming/design thing for a couple more months, but after that, I’m done. If my life doesn’t turn around by say, January, then I’m out. You’ll be able to find me down on Carson street outside of Starbucks with a paper cup. Stop by and give me a buck or two.

Current Mood: [mood icon] irritated

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: October 29th, 2003 - 09:09 am (Link)
It's cold in January. Beg now, and do software development in the winter months.

(By the way, I think your estimate of Gus' earning powers is optimistic, but hey. Maybe he bought Amazon back before the bust...)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 29th, 2003 - 09:46 am (Link)
well, I maintain that Gus was an exceptional beggar... almost zen like... much like all careers, we can't all do that well.... but really, if one begs during the winter months, wouldn't there be less competition?
[User Picture]From: limpingpigeon Date: October 29th, 2003 - 10:59 am (Link)
Less competition and people will feel sorrier for you.

Possibly less people walking around outside to give you change, though.

So, I guess it's a tradeoff.
[User Picture]From: drfell Date: October 29th, 2003 - 11:42 am (Link)
There was a story on NPR a while back about a bum and congressional staffer. He would always sit in Union Station (here in DC) and once every couple of weeks, she (the staffer) would give him a dollar that was the change from her latte. One day, she ran into him outside a restaurant near The Hill and they got to talking. Apparently, he makes about $600 a day, tax free. He had been planning to beg for a while then get a job and clearly that wouldn't have been so lucrative so he stuck with the begging. Needless to say, she, making less than a third of what he was, didn't give him her change anymore.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: October 29th, 2003 - 04:40 pm (Link)
So, is the sombrero dude still around these days? Oakland or dahntahn? What about Lady Pittsburgh? Ya gotta keep me up on the bums in the hood.

Additionally. There's this dude who walks with a paper cup by the Whitesone Bridge, near Target. He looks pretty spiffily outfitted. He is also under 5 feet tall and has one malformed arm ending just below his elbow and one leg about 6 inches shorter than the other. I only see him on weekends. It's the clothes, though...I wonder if he's got a day job and does this to supplement his income. Or perhaps he's just keeping fit. He walks between the lanes when the light is red, up and down the off-ramp. But I have no change that I can spare in any case.
[User Picture]From: danitapgh Date: October 30th, 2003 - 03:25 pm (Link)
A few months ago, I was walking to the Giant Eagle in Squirrel Hill at night. A woman with a small child were coming down the street towards me. The child must not have been older than 6. The woman asked me for some money so she could find a place to stay that night. Since she had a small child with her, I felt extra guilty. I gave her the smallest bill that I had on me which happened to be a $20. This is a lot more than I usually give to beggars at any one time. So, she thanked me quite heartily and went on her way. I was feeling too shy to pry into her personal situation even though I thought it might be good to take her to a women's shelter or something - especially since she had the kid with her. On Tuesday night, Anu and I ran into the same woman on the streets of Squil. She had the same small child and gave the same pitch. This time we declined to give her any money. This time she insulted us when we were barely out of ear shot. I felt dirty - both for giving her and not giving her money. Guilt sucks.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: October 30th, 2003 - 03:42 pm (Link)
Guilt? Feh. People who suck, suck. How dare she insult you for not giving her money! I wish strangers would hand me $20 bills, but I don't get mad at them for not handing me a 20.

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