Thursday, February 09, 2006

So, welcome to the first-ever post of my first-ever blog. Ever. It's a momentous occasion, brought on by a combination of having too many beers two blocks away from an Internet connextion, not having any cell phone minutes left, and a complete lack of good judgment and/or anyone looking over my shoulder. The stars are truly aligned tonight.

Blog entry No. 1: How to deal with "bums."
This was something I occasionally had to deal with in Washington and Colorado. And, now, in Michigan, it's become a major concern. Perhaps because I insist on working nights. Perhaps because I insist on living downtown. Perhaps because I insist on drinking until last call, and then walking home. Whatever.

(Note: I really don't know AP style for folks who walk up to you on the street, in a lobby, or on freeway on- and off-ramps who ask you for money. For the purposes of this blog, I'll call them bums. The cynic-on-the-street in me suggests, for some reason, that's assuming that they actually need the money they ask for; the cynic-who-types in me suggests that "bums" is the shortest of all possible words he could use, and thus should not have any values whatsoever assigned to it. You be the judge, but for me, "bums" it is.)

Anyway, here's your options:
1.) Pay the man, Shirley.
It's the easiest of all solutions. Give the fella what he asked for, according to your means and/or the change/small bills in your pocket. I mean, hey, if they're willing to set aside their pride and ask a stranger for whatever he can spare, is it so much to do what you can to ease their night? From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs: this is the Marxian ideal that would work if we were all just willing to pitch in, right? Whatever liberal guilt you feel at making more than anyone who comes up to you at 2:15 a.m. will rapidly be assuaged, and you'll be on your way to a worker's paradise.

2.) Go to hell, Marx.
Of course, your guilt will be eased, and the worker's paradise will be forthcoming, but at the same time, you worked for that money, goddammit. Did they just work a 12-hour day after spending years in college learning all sorts of unique things that would let them charge exorbitant amounts for their services someday? I doubt it. Of course, this option complicates things, since the core ideas of capitalism and "opportunity cost" are not ones that translate well when you're walking out of a bar in a suit and the guy opposite you just wants a quarter for the bus. At this point, you really have one, and only one, option. Ignore that sumbitch. (This is the approach I was famous for in Washington.) Because once you've acknowledged he exists, well, you've lost the battle. At that point, you're pretty much back to option No. 1, unless you've got the brass ones to stop, make eye contact, pause, and then reject a heartfelt (though patently false) plea out of hand. And if you're that kind of person, well, fella, I want to drink with you. (Even though, apparently, I'll be paying.)

A quarter for the bus? Sure. $2 for a coney dog down the street. That's not so exorbitant. $4 for a cheeseburger at this bar. And you're carrying a bible and using a single crutch at 2 p.m.? Yeah, I guess I can spare that. And, so, your wallet is rapidly depleted, just cause they're working harder than you are at excuses. But you still don't want to be the cold-hearted eff-er who either ignores the destitute fella on the street when you've just run up a decent-sized bar tab, or the soft touch who opens his wallet when anyone comes asking. It's not so bad to give the money, but you'll get get pissed when it's time to settle your next bar tab and tip the hot bartender -- or buy a pop from the machine, or feed the parking meter, or slip some "appreciation" into your favorite dancer's G-string -- and all you've got is a $20 bill and the chuckling appreciation of Bum X from the previous night. And this is why I propose option No. 3:

3.) A modest proposal: Lie.
That's right. Lie. Lie with as much bluster as you can manage. 'Cause you know they're probably lying. Who hangs around heavily populated areas when tourist events are in town, and then is nowhere to be seen when it's 4 a.m. and it's just the drunks with no money walking around? Liars. Trust me on this. If I had a quarter for every time I'd had a bum come up to me with a sob story, well-thought out enough to get me to shell out, only to see them a day later hitting up someone else -- or hitting up me again -- well, I could give every bum in the world enough for a coney. But I don't. I have only a growing sense of outrage over my liberal guilt being abused every time I turn around. And so, I suggest this. Lie. They ask for whatever you can spare? Give them a quarter. They ask for a specific amount ($1, $2, $5, etc.)? Haggle them down. You have no change. You have no ones. You have only big bills. There's plenty of options, depending on the size of your cajones.
Believe me; even ifyou're coming out of a titty bar with a G-string on your head, 2 strippers on your arm, and a wad of ones in your shirt pocket, you're in the position of power.
You. Control. The. Bargaining. Process.
(Of course, should you actually want anything to happen with said strippers that night without paying through the ... um ... nose, just hand over a $5 bill and keep walking. Discretion is the better part of valor.)
The best part of this strategy? The gamesmanship. It turns every encounter with a bum into a chess game. Sure, you'll end up giving some money (so he's happy-ish), but you'll likely not end up giving as much as he asked for (so you're happy-ish). And thus Machivellian principles give everyone a minor victory. Hoo. Ray.

And if someone's unhappy with the transaction? Run like hell.


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