A Confession of an Avowed Liberal…

Here’s my confession:  Panhandlers piss me off.  There.  I said it. Shouldn’t I feel better having said that – some how, though, I don’t.  I confess, also, that I don’t know why the real oldest profession affects me this way.

Today, I declined to lower my car window in the rainy McDonalds parking lot despite the request of a woman panhandler – I watched her work the whole lot and she had some success, too.  I recognize pretty quickly when I am being targeted for begging.  It happens to me often and I wonder to myself, “Do I look like a sucker and a liberal, or what?”

My favorite panhandling story happened last spring in the parking lot of a Dillons store not usually known for such things.  A young African American man, who was either on some really good amphetamines, or what I suspect, he was having a pretty serious manic episode, approached me at the speed of light.  He was literally running from person to person in the lot.  He comes running up to me and before he makes his pitch, I hold up my hand and say “Sorry I can’t help you out.” 

He broke into a fit of laughter, and said “Hey!  You know what I’m about, don’t cha!”

I really need to introspect more about this failing, if is that…



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15 responses to “A Confession of an Avowed Liberal…

  1. indypendent

    It is so hard to tell which ones are sincerely down on their luck and which ones are only milking the public for extra money to buy more alcohol or drugs.

    I really hate to see those people on the side of the road next to traffic signals and they come up to my window. I do not usually even give them a chance to ask me – I do not roll down my window and I do not look their way.

    I figure – if they can manage to get out to a busy intersection, then they could manage to find the Lord’s Diner downtown for a free meal.

    What I will do though, is when I see a young single or couple with children who are buying only the food basics and if one of their children asks for something at the checkout lane (you know, they always have those items at the checkout lane to tempt you to buy them); I will simply hand them a $20 bill and tell them to go ahead and treat their child, if they choose to do so.

    But I absolutely draw the line when I see the kids wearing Nike tennis shoes and/or name brand jeans and the adult has a Vision card in their hand.

    Maybe that is the wrong attitude to have, but I don’t mind helping people out when they are down on their luck but I do not believe in people gaming the system.

  2. I had someone say to me after giving something to someone panhandling “All he is going to do is go buy alcohol with it.” To which I replied “maybe you are right, maybe you arent. Either way my conscious is clear”

    I tend to give to those who aren’t aggressive and not to the ones that are.

    I had one guy ask me for a dollar to get something to eat. Not having anything, I offered him my leftover chicken strips that I had in a box from the restaurant. He gave me a “hell no” look and walked away..haha

  3. klaus

    I’m with Iggy.

    I spent my college days in a big city. The first year I was a soft touch, and forked over whatever I could. As time went on, I hardened.

    Ignoring someone still lacerates me inside, but I deal with it.

    But, really, panhandlers are very visible evidence that our country has failed its most vulnerable members. I suspect the anger and resentment they engender is misplaced; it should be directed at those leaders who have created this mess. Instead, it’s directed at the victim.

  4. Susi Spice

    i agree witih bearman. I take the same approach

    however, whenever Ive been approached for money its usually “do u have a dollar? i need to buy some milk for my kids/food/bus ticket”. most of the time I wont give them any money but I will offer to buy them the item they ask for. If they take me up on the offer then they are genuine if not then its probably for alcohol.

    • Hi Susi. Thanks for your input. Hope you visit PPPs again.

      I’ve never been able to pass up the person who asks me for help. Once upon a time I fed four kids alone. No, I never panhandled, but I like to think I would have been brave enough if I’d had to. I had it really easy because part time jobs were plentiful then and I worked a bunch of them, sometimes after my full time day job I had an evening job, another job for weekends, I was on the call list at Kelly Girls for the assignments like nighttime inventories or demonstrating the newest camera at K-Mart that were just one-time jobs, and I typed papers for college students.

      I don’t think jobs are as available today.

  5. Zippy

    I once had a guy ask me for money, saying “I’m starving.” I bought him a Whopper with onion rings.

    In other words, I tried to kill him.

  6. Susi Spice

    thanks for the welcome fnord!

    ive travelled extensively in developing countries (aka 3rd world as they say) and I have a development organisation of my own that works within a country in central america, so I do understand that in some circumstances and for reasons (which I could spend all night explaining and discussing here) people in those places suck it up and panhandle, or better yet, lets just call a spade a spade and call it what it is, beg, for help with food, clothing, you name it. Desperation knows no shame.

    I am a strong believer in community, in helping each other, in ensuring that everyone is provided with assistance and opportunities to, in particular, economically stabilise themselves.

    If someone is provided with an opportunity and does not take it, then so be it, they have made their choice and my empathy is done with.

  7. Thunderchild

    I reserve MY anger for the people who have made us a nation that fails so many people.

  8. Monkeyhawk

    I used to drive past a guy who had a “Will Work for Food” sign.

    One day I bought an Egg McMuffin and tossed the bag at him at a stop light.

    He shouted, “What am I supposed to do with this?!

    Okay. It was pretty bad food. Nevertheless….

  9. Zippy

    Taking this a little more seriously than I did the first time. I didn’t really want to get into it.

    Tucson is Panhandler City. The problem: we have homeless squatting on rooftops. The scam artists come with it.

    I’ve probably given money to people who were scamming. But I also know I’ve helped out people who were really in trouble.

    I had one guy in Wichita–who basically demanded money from me. That pissed me off.

    And honestly, questions of an equitable economy aside (and we haven’t had one for a very long time), I want government to help the poor precisely because they can separate the needy from the pathetic scammers.

    And–think about this, Iggy–even the scammers, in a way, are needy:what a pathetic and inadequate way to make money that is.

    And–of course–paying taxes to help the poor recover means you don’t have to encounter them constantly at the Circle K.

    • “And–think about this, Iggy–even the scammers, in a way, are needy:what a pathetic and inadequate way to make money that is. “[Zippy]

      Without question. I would not trade places. I think a big part of my problem is that I asked to make a decision on what to do, with so little data – questions remain – “is this person scamming me?”, “are there better resources?”, “Why am I so often targeted?”, etc…

  10. Trip to the Outhouse

    Having worked in downtown Houston for many years, I’ve encountered my share of panhandlers. For quite a number of years, because I rode the bus and walked to and waited at bus stops, I was basically accosted on a daily basis. Finally, I found earphones and no eye contact was away I could get myself safely through the several of blocks I had to walk.

    One day I recognized a woman who road my bus in the morning as a street beggar, squatting near a street corner like they do in some foreign countries. She was in a get-up that made her look something like a gypsy and also had done something to age herself by about 20 years. I saw her many times after that both on the bus, dressed like a middle-class bus rider, and then later on the street begging.

    Now I moved out to the suburbs and couldn’t believe it when I found panhandlers out here. There’s a very busy corner right after my freeway exit, and every day several are there “working” that major intersection. The same guy is at my light every day. My curiosity is how they get out there if they are so destitute. There’s no public transportation out this far. My guess is that they have cars stashed somewhere nearby.

    A local radio show had one of their interns panhandle one of busy intersections near the Galleria, and his take was $1200 for the day. Not a bad gig, if that’s the way you want to live your life.

    • That sheds a new light on the subject!

      Never thought of professional full-time panhandlers… who take a bus to work dpwntown, or drive and hide their cars…

      Wichita is such a small town and my experiences so narrow.

    • Zippy

      $1200/day? Assuming this intern was working the traffic hard sunup to sundown, that would still be more than $7 every 5 minutes. Perhaps one wealthy patron handed him a stack of cash, but you can’t really believe it’s possible to make even half that panhandling.

      A aggressive panhandler might keep themselves in weed and beer, but that’s about it. Sorry, I don’t buy this idea that someone could make “middle class” living from it, or even a good living.

      More people would be doing it if that were so. Hell, there would be websites devoted to it!