Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

How Not to Panhandle  §

So I’m walking home from the Regenstein library and I meet a panhandler on 57th who gives me a very average-ish pitch at best.

“I’m in a good mood,” I say, reaching into my pocket, “so you can have whatever I’ve got.”

“I guess beggars can’t be choosers, then,” he says, in a snide voice.

I pause for a moment, grinning.

“If I wasn’t in such a good mood,” I say, “I would turn around right now and not give you a thing. But here you go anyway.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, obviously contrite, “I thank you and may God bless you.”

I smile and continue down the street, bemused at the guy’s bravado. Not twenty steps later, however, on the same fucking block, I suddenly run into another panhandler. I don’t see this one at first because he’s like two-foot-six and as thin as a match, and dirty enough to blend into the darkness almost completely.

“Sir,” he says in that all-too-familiar tone, “I’m homeless and I need two dollars to get on the El and get back to my momma’s house.”

“I’m sorry,” I say to him, “I just gave everything I had to that guy over there.”

You say what?!” he says, going ballistic and coming right up to my back, “I been standing here all fucking night working this corner and you gonna give your pennies to some two-bit…”

Two panhandlers in one block, and both are gonna give me shit? And it’s gonna cost me seventy-five cents in change?

“Huh!” I say, turning around and looking at him with my head tilted.

“Oh, you kind of a big dude, for a white boy, ain’tcha?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say without moving.

He turns without saying a thing — no apology, no departing greeting, nothing — and walks away. These guys are rapidly losing my business.

I hate God because he lied to me about his existing.

In stark contrast to these idiots walking the streets, some of the I-House staff are pretty cool. Deborah and this one night guy in particular. I hadn’t seen him in a while and when I came back tonight, he was like, “Hey, man! Long time no see! How’s life? What you been up to?”

“You know,” I said, trying to sound tired, “work. That’s all.”

“Well ain’t shit else do to,” he responds with a smile on his face, “you know how it is, either you workin’ or you dead.”

To a guy that just spent all day in the Regenstein library working, that sounds like the voice of a friend.