How many times have you been stopped by someone asking you for money? The late Robin Harris put it so well on his comedy album “Bebe’s Kids,” about people out there asking for spare change. He said if you get a spare job you would have some spare change.
A few weeks ago I was at the Waterworks shopping mall. My shopping buddy and I were trying to get that last bit of shopping in before the stores closed. We were coming out of the Ritz Camera Store and there was a Black lady hanging around outside the store. She looked like she had something to say. She addressed us and showed us that she had photographs to sell. She said times were hard for her right now and she did not want us to just give her money. Most were in black and white while some had a hint of color. She let us select the one’s we wanted to buy and offered to sign the photo. She explained that she took some with her cell phone and she was trying to make money to buy more minutes for her phone. The bottom line is she didn’t just ask us for spare change. Based on her approach and the caliber of her photographs I think we both gave generously. Like so many people that are “panhandling” I didn’t feel like the money was going to end up at the state store or the drug dealer. I might be wrong, but I hope not.
I am normally offended when able-bodied people ask me for money. Maybe their body is able, but their mind is not able for work, but they sure can concoct a great story. I let a young lady tell me a story once that was quite fascinating. At the end of the story I elected not to give her any money. Needless to say she was angry and asked me why would I make her go through the whole story? I told her I wanted to hear what she had to say.
There used to be a guy downtown, a very handsome Black man who would prey on women. He seemed to have a good sense of who was an easy mark. He was dressed very neat in an oxford shirt and tan pants. He looked like the type of man you would like to take home to momma. He always had a sob story about his stolen wallet and he needed to buy a bus ticket to get back home. I was with a group of ladies doing a photo shoot on the North Shore when he showed up. Each lady ran for her purse to try to be the first to “rescue” this man. Let’s all give him some money they said. I stopped each one and told them that this was his scam; I had seen him do this before. I asked him to move on and I think the ladies were hurt that they could not help this bum.
Now when people ask me for spare change I turn around and ask them for money. It normally shocks them into retreat. Spare change?
(Email the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org)