Friday, December 19, 2014

"Excuse me, sir...!" (Beggars)

Beggars in the USA use different tactics than in other countries.  For the most part, these folks are not "needy" and in fact may be dangerous.

Traveling by car can be tiring, and when you enter a gas station, well, you can be vulnerable.   All your valuables are in your car - maybe your wallet, cell phone, camera, and the like.   You are tired, disoriented and distracted.

You try to pump gas, but the gas pump wants you to "log in" and determine whether you want a car wash, a soda pop,  or a gas additive - and then asks for your zip code, your frequent fueler card, and a host of other nonsense, before it will dispense gas (when did that happen and why did we allow it?).   You are distracted, and then someone comes up right behind you and says, right in your ear, "Excuse me, sir!"

You jump about ten feet.  Why do they do shit like that?  To disorient you.  Perhaps distract you.   They want money, of course.   Either by taking it, or having you give it to them.  And they have a long-winded story about a blown alternator or needing a gallon of gas to get back to the Army base or whatever.

The reality is, they are professional beggars.  They go around with these "stories" and try to get you to give them money.  They usually have props, too.  The empty gas can is a good one for the "I'm in the Army and they'll say I'm AWOL if I don't get back to base soon!  Can you spare me a few bucks for gas?" rigamarole.

Babies and children - preferably dirt-smeared - are helpful and in 3rd world countries, people actually rent them so they can beg.

Of course, the cardboard sign "Just Evicted" is always useful - particularly if no one questions why the sign looks so worn, even though you are "Just Evicted".

Locals, of course, see the same beggars on the same street corners for months or years at a time, and understand they are not "just evicted" or just anything.  They are professional beggars, usually drug addicts, and what they want is money to buy beer and drugs.

I had a funny one the other day.  The Ghetto Shell station is tied into the Winn-Dixie gas promotion, so to get 50 cents off a gallon, after buying hundreds of dollars of groceries (they throw pennies at us, hoping we spend dollars!)  I go there to get gas.

A lady driving a Lexus, wearing much nicer clothes than I have, with a very nice hair-do with very expensive extensions, drives up and asks me, "Can you help a lady in need?" - she talks softly, so I have to walk to her car to hear her.  I tell her (truthfully) that I don't have any cash.

By the way, make sure your car is locked when you pump gas - people do this to distract you, while an accomplice loots your car.

I assumed, since she was driving a nicer car than mine, wearing nicer clothes - and did I mention her perfect nails? - that she just wanted directions.  It floored me that she was begging for money - in a Lexus!

When I said, "no" - she drove to the other pumps to ask other patrons.   Apparently, begging is a drive-by sport now.   Or was she selling something?   I doubt the latter, as she did not seem to be a prostitute.  She was too nicely dressed for that.

But it is funny - begging is a big deal for a lot of folks - and many engage in it as a pastime.  Going to the store?  Beg.  Going to the gas station?  Beg.   Wherever you go - Beg.   Someone might give you a dollar, or two, or more.   It adds up, in a perverse sort of way - and if you put that money into savings (instead of crack) wow - you'd could be rich.   But I think most are investing in other things......

How do you handle these sort of folks?   Don't engage them at all.   As soon as you say, "What?" in response to "Excuse me, sir!" you will get the whole "story" and the beggar won't leave you alone until you hand over some cash.  They can get aggressive and even violent.

And often they work in pairs.  One distracts you while the other walks around to the other side of your car, opens the door and takes whatever is in sight.

Sorry, but this sort of thing makes me lose what little sympathy I have for beggars.   Many of these people are not needy or homeless, but just trying to prey upon the ignorance of others - as well as the need some people have to show they are better than everyone else by "caring about the homeless" by handing out money to aggressive panhandlers.   And aggressive they get - oftentimes a panhandling plea can escalate into an assault, particularly if the panhandler is mentally ill or on drugs (which is often the case).  Laws have been passed regulating panhandling as a result of such incidents in places like Key West or Washington DC.

These sort of panhandlers are like the American version of Gypsies.  They seem harmless enough..... at first.