I met my old beggar on the interstate off-ramp Thursday afternoon
He didn't even see me
I just smiled
And he waved a cardboard begging sign
And all the other cars passengers ignored him
Still crazy, amongst those idling gears
Halfway back from my doctor's appointment Thursday, Hick pulled off the interstate to find some lunch. There was a dude sitting on the exit ramp, in the lane where people make a left turn to go into town. He was sitting on his backpack, holding a sign that looked like a flap off the end of a cardboard box. Written on it, in Sharpie, perhaps, "Need Help."
"You know, I don't mind to give money to somebody who really needs help. But I'll be darned if they're going to make a fool of me like some of those I read about. You know, the ones who do this for a living. They always need gas money, or will work for food, but they're not traveling. They live here. And if you give them food, they toss it away. In the meantime, they make a couple hundred dollars a day, tax-free. Then go get in their car and drive to their house."
"Yeah. You never know if they really need it."
"Check his shoes. Are they worn?"
"Nah. Just black tennis shoes."
"That backpack he's sitting on looks kind of ratty. But it would be, if he sits on it every day. I don't see any kind of traveling stuff hanging off of it."
"He doesn't look like he's missed many meals."
"Yeah. You would think he'd put on a shirt to cover his belly. His cut-off jeans are kind of ratty. But maybe that's his uniform. For begging. I wonder how many days he's been here. Or how many hours. Maybe he makes a couple hundred dollars a day. Tax free. Just sitting on the road, holding a sign."
"You never know."
"This is a big enough city that there are places he can get help. I can't believe the police let him sit out here on the interstate ramp."
This is why we need to license beggars. So they can have a badge that says they're real beggars. Really in need. Not scamming. But I suppose the real beggars would sell their badges to fake beggars, so they have money without working to beg. And the fake beggars would use the badges to organize a group and have their minions sit in the sun all day, then take a cut of their beggins.
No solution here. I'm leery of handing over money to freelance beggars.