Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Met My Old Beggar on the Interstate Off-Ramp Thursday Afternoon

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.


  1. During the school year I'm a beggar. I beg for pencils, copy paper and Shar--Hey, that guy had a sign written with a Sharpie? He can't be THAT bad off if he has access to a Sharpie. (I have to sell by body for a couple of those. Where is he? I might find him and frisk him...)

  2. I forgot to mention: nice Paul Simon-rhymin'.

  3. I've been scammed several times by the bus fare guys. No more.

  4. Good point. They'd have unions and dental plans, and then they'd no longer qualify for their own jobs.

  5. Sioux,
    I know! Sharpie! Because every beggar just happens to have one laying around in the cardboard box he lives in, I suppose, the cardboard box that grows more ventilated as time goes by, what with ripping off the flaps to use for making signs written on with his Sharpie. Who minds the box while he's away? Isn't he just asking for someone to break in and take his Sharpie? Maybe it was in his backpack. Maybe he had his whole house folded up inside his backpack.

    I think Hick nailed it when he said, "He doesn't look like he's missed many meals." This guy was quite portly. For all I know, he might have taken my donation and scurried off to Krispy Kreme. I actually helped him by not forking over any cash.

    Some songs just lend themselves to my titles. LEND themselves. I do not consider it stealing. If I was sitting on an interstate off-ramp with a cardboard/Sharpie sign proclaiming, "Need Song Title For Blog Parody," I'm sure Paul Simon would have tossed this one in my upturned hat. Billy Joel, on the other hand...that one would have necessitated my quick exit from the off-ramp. You can't be too careful when he's behind the wheel.

    "Every beggar knows
    The secret to survival
    Is knowin' when to sit on the off-ramp
    And knowin' when to run

    You never count yourself protected
    While you're sittin' on that off-ramp
    There's no roadside safe enough
    'Til Billy's drinkin' is done."

    I sense there is more to the story. Did you find out each one had his own bus and didn't actually need the fare?

    Yes. And licensing could lead to a nightmare of kickbacks and corruption and stolen pension plans...

  6. I donate to shelters and food banks, but not to people on corners with signs, for the very reasons you mentioned.

  7. Stephen,
    Same here. Even though the organization sometimes takes a cut, at least you know the majority of the donation is being used to help folks as intended.