0

On the prowl for a handout at Chez BK

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Man in the silk suit hurries by, And as he catches the poor old lady’s eye, Just for fun he says, “Get a job.”

— Bruce Hornsby

I was waiting recently for a couple of the rogues who are among the few who don’t mind being seen with me in public at one of our favorite fine dining establishments — we refer to it alternately as Chez BK (imagine that being written in large, swirly letters) and the BK Lounge, although there are some of the less cultured who call it Burger King — when a lady walked up and asked if I had “something to give her.”

Far from being taken aback, I actually understood that she was asking for a handout and I had to tell her I didn’t have any money with me. (Incidentally, for others of you who might be looking for easy marks, I wasn’t lying. It’s a rare day that I have more than a few coins in my pocket, out of necessity and also the fact that I’ve always got way too much month left at the end of my money.)

My dining companions and I, while we were solving most of the world’s problems, laughed one of those what-are-you-gonna-do laughs when I told them about the exchange. The only question we usually have when we make one of our regular excursions to the Lounge is if we’ll be hit up in the parking lot or inside the restaurant. It’s kind of like popping in to downtown Albany’s Central Library branch — one of my favorite places to pop in, by the way: You know you’re going to have to make your way through a gauntlet of funding requests before you even get through the doors.

(Inside, unfortunately, the wonderful staff at the library, as well as patrons hoping to actually check out books, have to contend with a coterie of homeless and semi-homeless who either ask for contributions or settle in and while away the hours out of the weather, which is fine because they’re citizens, too, but, damn, at least have the courtesy not to snore while you’re dozing off.)

Sadly, a city the size of Albany, which has a considerable homeless population — despite the U.S. Census’s contention that there’s only one homeless person in all of Albany and Dougherty County ... which begs the questions: Are you kidding me? and We’re getting funding based on this kind of information? — is going to have its share of (and there’s no kind or politically correct way to put this) panhandlers and beggers.

We see them at all the major traffic intersections with their signs ... Will work for food ... Hungry, need help ... Albany Herald editor; have mercy and contribute to the cause ... I’ll admit that I’ve always been a soft touch (until I quit carrying money), feeling sorry for anyone who’s reached a place in life where he or she faces the indignity of relying on the compassion of strangers for daily sustenance. I usually relented and gave what I could, even if I didn’t believe the latest round of sad stories.

And, oh yes, there is definitely a sad story network among the folks out asking for money. Like a buddy of mine once said, “If you meet enough of them, the stories start sounding the same.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve run into in the last few months who need “(a specific amount of money) to pay for a bus ticket to get back to (a specific location).” Sadly, if a person actually looking for bus ticket money to get back home ever really did exist, his story’s not going to win him a whole lot of sympathy.

I was pretty much cured of giving non-relatives my hard-earn ... ummmm, earned money a few years back when a lady gave me the most heart-rending sob story I’ve ever heard about her lot in life. It involved little babies (a good touch), a debilitating illness and an abusive spouse. By the time she’d finished, I was actually tearing up. I gave her every bit of money I had (somewhere around 12 bucks, which for me is a lot).

I felt better about myself for helping out all I could, but my self-esteem took a shot an hour or so later when I saw that lady — who’d needed the money to buy food for her babies — coming out of a gas ‘n’ sip with a sixer in her shopping cart. I’m pretty sure she saw me, too, but if it registered with her that I’m the guy who financed her beer buzz for the evening, she didn’t show it.

I grew up in Ocilla, and we just didn’t run into folks like that. The only person I can remember who asked for money on the streets was Jabbo, the town drunk. But when Jabbbo asked you for money, he was up front: “I need to get me some beer,” he’d say.

Now that’s my kind of panhandler.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

I made the decision many years ago........I will NOT hand out cash to strangers. Period.

Not so you can get to Dawson because your grandmother just died. Not so you can buy a shirt and tie 'cause you just got a job, not 'cause you need gas money, not 'cause you just got mugged, not 'cause you haven't eaten in 3 days (I will buy you a burger but not give you burger money...), not 'cause somebody stole your bicycle. Not for NO REASON.

And for all you bleeding heart "christian" liberals out there who will call me a non-christian heartless bastard infidel.............Jesus never gave anybody any money. Read your Bible and see.

1

USTPC 1 year, 11 months ago

"Christian Liberal" being the key Sister_Ruby. I am a Christian Conservative and I do not hand out money. I will buy a meal, I will physically put gas in your car and pay for it, and on one occassion I paid for hotel room for a family that had been stranded because of car trouble. What I will not do is hand out cash. Want to know how many times I have been told no when I offered to buy a meal for someone with a sign "Hungary, please help"....more times than you can count on both hands.On two seperate occassions (both in Seattle) they cussed me out because I would not give them money.

On the other hand, those that I have helped that were truly in need were sincerely appreciative that a stranger stopped to help.

0

waltspecht 1 year, 11 months ago

At one time I carried Beabie Weenies in the can. If they needed money for food, I gave them 2 cans and a GI Zipper. It is all cooked, so they didn't need to heat it. Many gave the dirtiest loks, but all took the food. The only time I think the situation was real was in Charleston, S.C. I had just gotten back from deployment on a Sunday. Way before ATM's. I had about eight bucks in my pocket. I went to Kentucky Fried and ordered my usual big bucket with extra rolls and a quart of gravy. While I was waiting I watched an Old Man and his dog. The man was going thru the trash picking out bones with some meat on them. I figured he was getting it for the dog. He sat down, and he ate the meat off the bones and gave the bone to the dog. I had spent all my cash, and didn't have anyway of getting any more till the Banks opened. I gave him my whole meal, and he just stared. I got on my Triumph and rode off.

0

agirl_25 1 year, 11 months ago

I won't give money either and have been called a cheap bastard for it..haha...who cares. I will see someone sometimes alongside the road in a heavy traffic area holding a sign reading "Will work for food" and will have my husband go thru a drive-thru and buy them a "meal deal" then swing by and give it to them, but that is it, they can take it or leave it. Other than that, I would rather buy 50 pound bags of pet food and take it to a shelter. I travel overseas a lot and am told to always look at the hands of the panhandlers....especially the poor downtrodden females who need money to feed their babies....that is a sure sign of a con artist. Have you ever known a truly poor person with impeccably groomed nails (unless they live in the USA)... that is all you see shoot out, palms open begging for coins, nails groomed perfectly.

0

Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm a sucker for giving out money. I don't give it up every time, but more times than not. I've told beggars to their face that I didn't believe a word they just told me, and still gave them money anyways. Did it get spent on booze or even worse? I'm sure some of it did. I just figure that God will sort it out in the end.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

It's possible, Cartman, that God will have more to say to YOU on judgment day than to them. Ever think about that? Good intentions don't make up for naive actions. You might be an enabler to them instead of giving them tough love.

0

Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

I did say that I don't give it up every time. I think we all draw the line at a different place. The Samaritan knew as much about the wounded guy in the ditch as I know about some dude asking for a handout.

But you're right. The Lord will 'splain it to me if I need it.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Agreed. We all gone have some tears that the Good Lord gone wipe away on That Day.

And the Good Samaritan didn't give the injured guy any cash money. You need to re-think your cash handouts is all I'm saying.

0

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Jesus said the Good Samaritan gave the money to a responsible business man to manage the injured man's care on his behalf.

0

Sign in to comment