Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Did You Just Call Me?

I go to McDonald’s to write out my set list for a show later that night. As I’m ordering, I notice a bum in a neon Street Sense penny staggering around the premises, asking people for loose change.

After I get my ten piece and fries, I set my tray down at a table on the opposite side of the place from him. This seems like some sort of strategic masterstroke at the time. Don’t these people they realize that they could have also avoided being pestered by this vagabond? All you have to do is find out where he is, and sit on the other side! It’s simple! I should be their life coach. I congratulate myself heartily on this foolproof method of bum avoidance as I get up to retrieve ketchup and a straw.

That is until I return to find the bum is sitting at the table right behind me.

Not only that, but he’s clearly waiting for me. This is going to be hard. I’m not averse to giving money to the homeless. I donate to various charities. Allright, that is bullshit, but if a bum asks me for money, and I have cash on me, I’ll give him a few bucks. What I don’t like to do is buy a bum something with my check card. Any bum-to-me transaction cannot last more than the few seconds it takes me to reach into my pocket and hand him some bills. Anything longer and the odds that he’ll jack me increase exponentially.

“Excuse me, sir?” he asks. I hate when bums are polite; it makes upcoming Mutumbo-like rejection all the more difficult. It’s much harder to turn someone down when they’re as sweet as apple pie. “Can you spare a few dollars so I can get some food?”

“Sorry,” I answer, honestly. “I’m out of cash.”

“Oh.” He turns away for a split second, and then tries again. “Can I get a fry?”

Okay, I feel for the homeless population. The overwhelming majority of them have been dealt brutal cards by life, and that is genuinely sad. That being said, if a member of said population plans to ask me for money, there is a code he or she must follow. Bum etiquette, if you will. And one tenant of that code is that you cannot ask me for a piece of my meal. You never see a hobo warming his hands over a garbage can fire outside at a KFC, barking at passersby to throw him a biscuit. It’s not much to ask. I don’t complain when you smell like onions and feet, and in turn you don’t ask me for the pickle off my burger. It’s a win-win.

So, realizing that he was going to keep pushing if I didn’t put a stop to it, I got firm: “Look, just leave me alone, okay?” I did have a show to plan for, and I didn’t think he’d go away if I didn’t say something. Nevertheless, I felt bad. Hard to be a bigger villain than the guy who won’t give money to a bum. I quickly imagined my Mom, Dad, third grade teacher Mrs. David, and Woodsy Owl all appearing in a ghostly, dead Jedi-like form and shaking their heads with disapproval. He shuffled off without a word, leaving a bag at the table.

He continued to walk up to people, asking for money. I begin to second-guess my decision. Would it have killed me to get up and buy the guy something? Stand in line with him for a few seconds? Maybe held his hand, reassured him that although life was rough, he could pull through this troubled time?

More importantly, what if he was a billionaire disguised as a bum, and he was looking for someone to give all his money to when he died? If that was the case, then I really messed up.

After a few minutes, I saw him slowly walk towards my table. I didn’t know what he was going to do. I kept scribbling nonsense on my notebook paper, feigning interest in the hopes that he wouldn’t say anything else to me.

He grabbed his bag off the table behind me. Then, as he walked away, I heard him mumble in my general direction:

“Bitch.”

Yes, that’s correct, Dear Reader, a homeless guy called me a bitch. Now, my first reaction was to laugh, because the sheer ridiculousness of that situation is pretty unbelievable.

But let’s analyze that insult a little further. In what way does not giving him money make me a bitch? My unwillingness to buy dinner for Sir Smelliness does not make any kind of statement on my toughness or lack thereof. I’m a cheap dick, not a bitch. I resent the mischaracterization.


Coming in 2010....the Homeless Snuggie!

My second reaction was to get angry. Who is a homeless guy to call me a bitch? Who does he think he is? And what does that say about me, that a dude with no home, money, or deodorant is going to call me that? But then I thought about it, and it makes perfect sense. Compared to this dude, I am absolutely a bitch. There’s no way I would ever sleep outside. I only went camping once when I was a kid. This guy has to deal with the elements, not to mention unruly squirrels. If a dude as tough as that wants to call me a bitch, not much else I can do but accept it and try to live up to his standard by buying a tent and hitting up Yellowstone.

Thanks for telling it like it is, Tough Homeless Dude Trying to Get a Fry. Next time the Filet-O-Fish is on me.