Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

This morning as I was walking to church, I was approached by a disheveled-looking man who asked me for money. He had the most typical story.

His wallet had just been stolen and he needed seven dollars so he could take the Metra train to his home in the suburbs. (The “Metra” is a local commuter train system that serves the suburbs.)

I moaned.

I’ve heard this story, or a variation of it, at least a dozen times. I guess these panhandlers think it’s a good way to make some quick money. Instead of requesting some change “for a cup of coffee,” they have developed this sad tale of being stranded in the city. If I can, then, provide them with the train fare, they will soon be within the loving bosom of their family.

It’s a quick way of making seven bucks a pop as opposed to 25 cents at a time.

Like I said, I’ve heard this story many times. Three times, they have just gotten off the bus from Mississippi and need train fare to get home to the suburbs. For some strange reason, it’s always Mississippi. I guess the good folks from down there don’t have lots of money for travel.

I was approached by the same guy twice within a six month period. He had a twist: He wore a security guard’s uniform to give himself an air of legitimacy. The second time he approached me saying that his wallet had been stolen, I remarked that perhaps he should re-think his choice of occupation as a security guard.

The thing is, when these guys launch into their story of a wallet being stolen and needing seven dollars for the Metra train, they’re never anywhere near the Metra train station. Or the bus station that had just deposited them from Mississippi for that matter.

Like I said, I groaned when he started in on this tired story.

I have all the compassion in the world for those who are less fortunate. I make a nice living, so I make sizeable donations to United Way and PBS. These panhandlers should be thanking me for making vegetarian cooking programs available to them.

I started to tell him that he should really think of something more original that needing seven bucks for the Metra train. Instead, I just mumbled a “sorry” and went on to get my latte at Starbucks.

Can't these guys come up with a different story?

Like I said, I have all the compassion in the world. But a lack of creativity is something that I cannot support, much less, tolerate.


At 8:13 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Sometimes I'd almost rather they just say "Spare change?" It's better than sitting there listening to their sad tale...and I'm actually probably more likely to give them money that way.


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