27 Sep

I spent Saturday afternoon running errands.  As I was getting off the freeway on my way home, there was a man with a sign that said, “I never thought I would do this, but I need help.”  I only occasionally give money to panhandlers.  Mostly my cold, cynical heart keeps my roadside philanthropic gestures in check.  But that afternoon I found myself wishing I had a couple of bucks.  I didn’t.  I rarely have cash.  I did, however, have some bottled water, and since it was a particularly warm day, I offered it to him.  He accepted it gratefully, and struck up a conversation while I waited for the light to change.

PH, opening his bottle of water: This is probably the last nice day we’ll have in September.

Me, looking up at the bright sun and then at his attire: Yeah, not the best day for black.  Oh good honk!  He is black!

PH, taking a sip of his water, looking at me out of the corner of his eye and half-smiling:  I like black.

Me, chuckling awkwardly: Well, you look hot.  You look hot?  Did I just tell him he looks hot?!  Fix it, Bythelbs!  Fix it!  I mean, temperature-wise.  Temperature-wise? Temperature-wise?!? Mayday, mayday!  Abort!  Abort!

I couldn’t look at him after that, but it seemed like he had taken a step or two away from my vehicle.  And I can’t help but wonder if somewhere I am now referred to as “the crazy white lady who tried to pick me up on the 88th St. off-ramp”.

Do you give money to panhandlers?  Food?  Bottled water?  Inappropriately suggestive comments?


17 Responses to “Panhandled”

  1. Susan M September 27, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    LOL. That is too funny.

    This is something I’ve tried to be better about doing. I mostly don’t like opening my purse and having them be able to see how much cash I have on me. Which is never very much, but still. I sometimes try to carry some change in an easy-to-access pocket or whatever, but don’t always think to.

    When I worked in Pioneer Square I used to pass the same crazy homeless guy every day on the way to my car. If I had change I tried to carry it in my pocket so I could give it to him easily. He was mentally ill and would never look at you. Just veer over towards you without looking your direction, it was kinda funny.

  2. Alison Wonderland September 27, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    If I have cash I’ll give it up, which is to say that I pretty much never give money to panhandlers. (I do however, give rides to hitchhikers. Yeah, I know you’ll see the story about my mutilated body on the news one day.) I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to “pick one up” though I guess we all have something to aspire to.

  3. Catherine September 27, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    Yep, bottled water and granola bars. Whatever is in my car.

  4. tawnya September 27, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    I usually only give them money and/or food. I think, now, with your EXCELLENT guidance, I will be hitting on them from now on…

  5. madhousewife September 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm #


    On Saturday we were downtown and one panhandler’s sign said, “Ninjas killed my family. Need money for karate lessons.” I didn’t give him anything. I didn’t even try to pick him up.

  6. Flipflopmama September 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Not usually. I guess I’m kind of heartless like that. But I don’t usually have any spare change either.

  7. Amanda D September 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    This post made me smile. Thanks for the laugh!

  8. Mother of the Wild Boys September 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    LOL! I love you, crazy white lady. 🙂

  9. foo4luv September 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I was once helping to repaint a ward member’s house, and one of the other helpers was an amputee (missing a hand). He was having trouble with some task (something which would have proved difficult for a two-handed person such as myself) and I asked him if he needed a hand. Yeah. But I didn’t tell him he looked hot, so you win.

  10. Patience September 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    That is hilarious! Way to make awkward conversation. 🙂

    My husband is an ER nurse and he often sees his patients panhandling around town. One of these patients asked him for money recently and my husband said (truthfully): “The last time I went through your pockets, you had $1,000. I’m not giving you anything.”

  11. Julie September 28, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    I rarely have any change or cash, especially smaller bills. If I do, however, I try to give.

    I now have a new standard to reach, though, thanks to you.

  12. merkin4 September 28, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    I was in inner-city Baltimore one day when I was approached by a panhandler. He claimed he needed to get bus fare to get uptown to the VA hospital – they needed to treat a cut on his hand. It was an old cut, a few days old, so he pinched it hard to get a drop of blood to show.

    He was standing in front of a store that advertised “Package Goods”, the term for alcohol, and I knew that if he got up to about $2 he could buy one of those little mini-bottles of something.

    So, I asked him how much he had already. He pulled out his change and counted it – about 80 cents. I took his 80 cents out of his hand and gave him a shiny new bus token. “There you go. That will get you to the VA hospital. Take the 7 to North Avenue, then take the 22 to the hospital. Ask for a transfer when you get on the 7.”

    As I walked off, he yelled and asked how he was going to get home. I told him he’d only asked to get *to* the VA hospital, and that I was glad I could help him out.

    The guy panhandled on that street every day, but he never approached me again.

  13. bythelbs September 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Susan—I always wonder when they say “anything helps” if they really mean it. Would giving them like 46 cents in change be an insult? I guess not if they were actually desperate.

    Alison—Tsk, tsk. I guess you just have to go with your gut on that one. Hopefully you’ve got a reliable gut.

    Catherine—I think the food/water thing is good. I’m thinking I might keep that kind of stuff ready in my car.

    Tawnya—Glad I could inspire you.

    Mad—A sense of humor is always nice, but doesn’t make for a very convincing case of desperation.

    Flip—Like I said, I’m pretty cynical, but sometimes I just feel like I should do something.

    Amanda—Then my work here is done!

    Mother—Right back at ya!

    Foo—Are you sure I win? 😀

    Patience—I’ve decided that’s one of my talents. And $1000?? Crazy.

    Julie—That’s me–always setting the bar a little higher.

    Merkin—I love that you took the 80 cents. I wonder how many people ask the panhandlers, “You got change for a $20?”

  14. Boquinha September 29, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Bwahahahaha! One of your Funniest. Posts. Ever. I get your posts emailed to me, so when this one came, I laughed out loud and forwarded it to Mark, who also laughed out loud but had to stifle it because he had a patient half asleep on the table. I so needed the laugh that day, too, so thanks.

    We did a “random act of kindness” the other day that I’ve always wanted to do ever since seeing the idea on that website — we paid the toll for the car behind us. No idea what the person thought (if anything) but it was fun.

    As for foot-in-mouth disease (I have frequent flare-ups), when I was about 14, I was having a conversation with a boy on whom I had a crush. We were walking down a hall and I kept repeating myself because he kept leaning in as we walked and saying, “Huh?” and “What’s that?” So, in exasperation (because I thought he was being a smart mouth), I said, “What are you, deaf?!?” to which he replied, “Yes, in this ear” as he pointed to the one closest to me. UGH.

    • bythelbs September 29, 2010 at 8:51 am #

      Boquinha–I’m glad I could provide that service for you. 🙂 I like the “random act of kindness” idea. I once said “retarded” as in “that’s retarded” in front of a friend whose job was working with individuals with mental retardation, so I totally win. Except I didn’t have a crush on her at the time (or ever), so maybe you win.


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    […] Hit on a panhandler.  Again, a memorable experience, but once is […]

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