A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

11 December 2006

Overheard on the Street

One of the many homeless or faux-homeless who line the main street of town each morning has wedged himself into the corner of the doorway just outside my office. His begging technique is interesting:

"Hey, hey buddy--you got a quarter ..." a pause "Thass right--just walk on by like I wasn't fuckin' here."

"Hey bro--you got a quarter? ... Fuck. You wanna know the real meaning of fucking Christmas? It's fuckin' up your old man and your old lady ..."

"Hey--hey--I'm not a bum here. Well fuck, anyway, ya fuckin' asshole!"

"You got a quarter miss? Hey--you gotta ... Okay--I don't give a fuck about your fuckin' quarter anyway."

The litany of complaint and abuse is getting wearisome. But I resist the temptation to stick my head out and ask him to take his chorus elsewhere. It may be all the entertainment he gets. And the longer he bitches outside my door, the more blessed the silence when he finally £µ©λs off.

What pisses me off is that occasionally he gets money:
The morons who throw money at these guys are exacerbating the problem. Encouraging him to sit in the doorway and pollute the air. One woman buys him a coffee.

Of course one or two of the passers-by aren't exactly the charitable types:
"You're nothing but a goddam nuisance." says one. Others are somewhat more succinct, but reflect this spirit.

Eventually I hear him discussing strategy with another street person:
"Fuckit. I'm gonna take a bus home."
The doorway falls blissfully silent for a long minute. Then:

"Hey buddy--y'got a quarter for the bus?"


At 12:21 p.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

In Vancouver I once heard a couple of street kids discussing seems the puppy they had was a rental, and they had to give 10% of their take to the owner, who would reclaim it for the lucrative rush hour business at Broadway Station.

The only study of which I'm aware indicated that a clean-cut beggar averaged about a dollar an hour more than minimum wage. Then again, it is a job, and a pretty shitty one. Before you go all "Taxes, useful member of society, etc" on me, remember waiters and telemarketers.

At 12:52 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Waiters perform a very useful function: they bring more booze. And somebody, somewhere must be buying something off telemarketers. I favour hanging such people as a warning to others.

A reporter from one of the T.O. papers spent a week on the streets. It might not have been long enough, but some of his articles were fascinating. He spoke of drug dealers and the working poor rubbing elbows in soup kitchens, and the fact that the windshield-smearers keep their change in their buckets so you can't hear it rattle. I doubt this guy's making enough to worry about that.

It really isn't a job, though. Panhandling produces nothing useful, no product, no service. I suppose the provision of blogging material might count, but the supply is far higher than the demand.

At 11:55 a.m., Blogger Philipa said...

I read somewhere that Peter Hitchens (he of the Mail on Sunday, broad shouldered chap, see my blog for evidence) saw a woman in the street giving a beggar money. He disagrees with this, presumably thinking they are encouraged by such generosity and anyway, we have a welfare state. He told the woman to desist and not give the beggar money. The beggar beat him up.

Be careful your beggar isn't carrying a knife Metro.

At 1:09 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

I agree with Mr. Hitchens. In a country like Canada that boasts a cradle-to-grave welfare state, a person begging on the street is gaming the system, in which case he is a criminal, deserving my contempt for stealing from those who need the resources he's absorbing.

There is one other circumstance under which I could see someone on the street: when they've fallen through a hole in the social safety net(the mentally disadvantaged yet deinstitutionalized, the people who don't quite get enough from welfare to make rent in Vancouver, etc).

But when this is the case, it's a failure of public policy. It is not my responsibility to provide direct support. It is my responsibility to vote to change the situation.

If I wish, I can make a charitable donation--that way I do a little good, the people getting it are virtually guaranteed to be deserving (because we're such pricks about who qualifies) and the money goes farther.

Not to mention that it's tax-deductible and probably adds up to more money than random quarters in the long run.

Oh--and eventually the beggars quit in disgust and get either help or a job.

In the current labour market in this region, no-one need be homeless or begging.

At 8:08 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

Waiters, dearie, don't pay taxes on the bulk of their income. That was my point with their inclusion.

And someone, somewhere IS buying things off telemarketers, but someone somewhere is giving that guy a dime as well; they're even on that score, which also was my point. Usefulness and contribution to society are not meaningful terms for evaluating whether or not something is a job. Haven't you ever had a meaningless job? Nothing about capitalism predicates payment on making the world a better place. Look what tv producers make!

At 10:30 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

I said nothing--nothing about "making the world a better place".

Indeed, the world might well be a much better place were all work reduced to the minimum essential to maintain human life rather than that required to, for example, produce the Hummer H2.

Taxes make me ill and should be abolished, ideally. But it's an imperfect world and we need to pay for our medical care and related items somehow. A Parliamentary bake sale is unlikely to fill the gap.

But a job is related to the production of a product or service. Beggars--especially those supported by a welfare state--produce nothing. Hence, they do not have a job.

I've never had a "meaningless" job. I find meaning in almost anything that pays money. I'd much prefer to find meaning in being given large sums of it for nothing, but this has yet to present itself as a career option.

I'd throw my hat down near a bus station, but the sums involved aren't large enough and my current employment involves being indoors, which is nice.


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