The Subtle Art of Panhandling

by alphamonkey on May 30, 2005 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

Seeing as it’s Memorial Day and I’m feeling lazy, here’s a piece I put together for Sean Klitzner’s website, along with his editor Vladi Yurovsky.  They’re malnourished, penniless, and hopelessly filthy. On occasion, they’ll talk to trees and get into screaming matches with shopping carts. Are they disenchanted Phish fans? Not hardly. Are they former Real World cast members? Not quite, but close. 7 to 12% of them are dyslexic, and one in four can soil themselves on command. They are the few, the proud, the homeless.

According to a statistic that I just made up, the homeless population has increased to about 6.42% nationwide since I started typing this paragraph. So you might ask yourself “how do I, as a responsible, educated person help these people get back on their feet?” A noble sentiment to be sure, but what you should be asking yourself is “how can I maximize my entertainment value from these indigenous people, who might be our most precious resource?”.

First things first: So I fully understand the homeless people who stand at a highway exit offering up nipple rubs in exchange for rides to the next exit. The same goes for that generous soul who, for a mere pittance, will delight and excite me with the mysterious pleasures of a hobo lap dance. But what I don’t understand is the jibbering panhandler asking me for a quarter. A quarter? What is he gonna buy with a quarter? You can get a twenty-minute phone call for just 99 cents, so at least ask for a dollar, Johnny Layabout! Aim high!  See, it’s that kind of half-assed work ethic that’s taken this once fine nation into the toilet.

Speaking of toilets, New York City has the most interesting and enterprising homeless people. In addition to capturing the lucrative squeegee market, they’ve come up with all manner of inventive ways to convince you, the luckless passerby, to part with your hard-earned cash. I once saw a guy who stuffed himself and his ‘life partner’ into a washing machine on command. Now, that’s worth at least 50 cents in my book. I dare say Ol’ Scrooge McDuck himself would be moved by those ketchup and Mad Dog 20/20 stained men’s entrepreneurial spirit and derring-do.

But let’s face it: Most panhandlers are lazy, lazy people. I mean c’mon… they just STAND there and expect my money. Look, at least dance or something to earn my time and money! Even the damn hippies play bongos and chant folk songs about pot! And the signs they use? Pathetic! “Need help, God bless.” What’s that supposed to mean? Need help with what? Your taxes? Finishing your novel? Getting past level 4 on Super Mario Bros? Or my anti-favorite: Please help this veteran. Seriously now…you’re like 30, dude! What are you a veteran of?  The Xanax War of Psych Ward 10?  Americans may be gullible, but we’re not brain-dead.

I want creativity in both location and method of panhandling. Don’t hit me up for change when I’m walking out of the Starbucks trying not to scald myself while I text message my mom to explain what happened to the dog and why it wasn’t my fault. How about a little variety? Hit me up when I’m sitting in the bathroom at Barnes & Noble, sobbing uncontrollably because the riot-grrrrl at the coffee counter made fun of my ironic t-shirt. That’s the perfect time to kick open the stall door and demand: “Give me a dollar!” If I don’t reply, follow it up with “I know where you parked”. That’ll get some results, I guarantee you, but if it’s the sure-fire cash you’re after, how about: “Nice unicorn shirt, gaywad. Now give me a dollar!” See, there you’ve made your pitch and offered valuable fashion advice to someone in need. I can assure you, the novice panhandler, that the above scenario would have me opening my wallet faster than a business man in Bangkok .

So in conclusion a successful panhandler is one who provides us, his customer base, with a valuable service whether that be cautionary tale, a delightful sponge bath, or allowing us to keep storing our intestines on the inside of our body and not as a bizarre token of your mysterious power over life and death. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, and for further information or advanced classes, I can be found giving lectures under Hobo Bridge . Please bring 3 cans of Sterno and a sturdy pocketknife. 

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  • Just Plain Bob

    I dunno, that one was kinda tasteless, man. poverty sucks. granted, bums are humorous, and quite often full of arcane wisdom… but there are better ways to make fun of them. there were some parts of that article that just kinda crossed the line.

    you wanted user feedback, right?

    no bad mojo, just, my first gut reaction.

  • .alphamonkey.

    Meh.  No apologies and no explanations.

  • olivesmarch4th

    Yeah, I can’t believe you wrote that.

    BTW, one in three homeless men is a war veteran.

    And most of them are mentally ill.  My beloved uncle is schizoaffective and he’s come dangerously close to being homeless.

    I read an interesting article once about the deinstitutionalization of mental patients.  Because medical insurance is shitty, we’re not letting people stay in hospital as long as they need to, so they wind up on the street.

    Damn.  I still can’t believe you wrote that.

  • .alphamonkey.

    It’s satire.  Beyond that see my above response.

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