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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hard-luck Lesbian—Episode 1

On a quest for picture frames, I parked by Michael’s. Looking up from my iPhone, I saw a couple of yuppie women (now known as soccer moms?) tying up a conversation about dog grooming. Back to the phone. Suddenly the women were gone, rapidly, scattering like prey spotting an oncoming predator. Now I would be the prey. A wobbling female approached me with intermittent teeth and an aura of motivation. Up came that feeling, that fizzy intestinal dread-knot: I would now be panhandled, but with what result?

Over my half-open window, I beheld her, and she began. I have been trapped like this before. I hate to be rude, but I also have little patience for bullshit. Not only do these panhandler humans usually get money from me, they leave me feeling conned, ripped off, bamboozled. Not so much because they scored some small amount of cash from me, but because I always sense I’m being lied to, and I think that is part of their game. Sometimes I even assume that, when streetpeople cross paths behind Brown Derby or under laundromat awnings or wherever, they trade strategies—as in, which tales of woe get the best results. Why do I always feel this way? It probably started back when I was just as poor as they were, when their lack of a cigarette seemed no more urgent than my lack of a cold drink. But now that I am much more middle-classy, I still can’t stop parsing the theatricality of the various need-ploys that arise.

My mind racing, I rolled up my window. She immediately assumed that this was to shut her down, but it was actually just the current step in normal car-parking procedure. I planned on hearing her out, but now she was walking away, with a bit of piss in her gait. I climbed out of the car and promptly locked my keys inside, instantly realizing my mistake. Simultaneously I was trying to ask her what she needed, while also experiencing potent “aw, shit!” rage that might have gone about 30% of the way toward killing her. But instead of slinging her to the pavement by the shirt and yelling, “I JUST LOCKED MY KEYS IN MY CAR BECAUSE MY PANHANDLER ANXIETY BLEW MY FUCKING MIND,” I said something like, “Hang on, what do you need?”

Apparently I had a strong subconscious desire to be five bucks poorer, because I could have just let her keep walking. Some preliminary stammering later, she was asking for money in the most roundabout way possible—a shabby, hard-luck narrative, something involving a bus ticket that would get her child back from another state, or take her back to said other state to find her child, I think. I’ve heard a few variations on the bus ticket theme before. Bus tickets figure heavily in the panhandling universe, which makes perfect sense x2: buses are all about carrying poor people (truthiness), plus the NIMBY bonus—giving this person money gets this person away from me. Some towns even have programs where they round up homeless people and give them bus tickets which must be used to leave town, under threat of jail. So, adding a bus ticket to a panhandling narrative gives you more buck for your bang, in my estimation.

This is about the time I remembered, mercifully, that one of my back doors was probably unlocked. Thank fuck, it was! Keys back in fist, I was able to come to grips with the woman. I finally just gave her five bucks. That’s honestly something for me, because I still scold myself for breaking the five dollar mark at lunchtime. However, in the adrenalized afterglow of not quite locking my keys inside my car, five dollars down felt like a goddamn breeze of enfranchised relief.

Completing my Michael’s mission, I hit the nearby Walmart by way of the Nursery. Maybe 15 minutes had passed, and there by the houseplants and shovels was my sponsored lady-friend, hug-hanging on her lesbian lover. They were buying some stuff that didn’t seem conducive to at all to bus travel, such as houseplants. That’s fine, I just think they should have invited me over to see what they’re doing with the decor.

Of course I wish I could say “honesty is the best policy” to beggars, but I suppose that wouldn’t be honest. Had she come up and asked for money because she and her girlfriend had a list of housewares they wanted, then I might have just said, “No shit? Cuz at your age, I had an apartment in Florida furnished entirely by dumpster diving!” Except, when my sister found out I was sleeping on the floor-ida (see, it’s easy to write for Bob’s Burgers), she phone-ordered me a futon… so maybe we all need sponsors.

But maybe all I really want is for panhandlers to be required to listen to some story of mine before getting my money. I mean, I’m the one with the cash, so they should have to listen to me and pretend I’m smart as any self-help guru, because next to them I’m obviously Suze Orman, with my paid-off automobile and my numerous teeth. If Hardluck Lesbian had any tenacity, I would say, “Hey, I have aloe vera plants and a wandering jew—I don’t know if that’s racist to call a plant that, but that’s what it’s called—I can give you starts from both those plants for free. All you need is, like, two cups of dirt.” But then, Suze Orman doesn’t pay people to listen to her—they pay HER. So I guess I’m not Suze Orman, but I still think beggars should have to listen to me, and listen good.


Barbaro said...

I remember that ill-furnished Florida apartment. Maybe you should challenge panhandlers to a poetry contest. Sadly, that'd probably be the fastest way to get rid of them short of saying, I have Ebola.

Chad Woody said...

You may be the only one who remembers it... it lacked the suave charm of, say Katherine Sanchez's swanky piano-equipped lair. I didn't dare entertain!

kold_kadavr_ flatliner said...

God bless your indelible soul.

kold_kadavr_ flatliner said...

God bless your indelible soul.