Nov 7, 2009

On Off-Ramp Panhandlers and Believable Begging Scenarios

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I frequently pass the pictured panhandler at his regular post, which is at the off-ramp from southbound I-75 at U.S.-20 (Fremont Pike). Though I consider myself a relatively generous person, I am much more discriminating when I encounter people cadging money on the street, and I typically pay little attention to this individual on my trips to Rossford. He appears to be able-bodied, and seems to have at least a functional level of literacy, at least gauging by his signs.

Today's sign caught my eye, though, as it indicated that he was "on the road" and "out of luck." Both of these statements may indeed be true, but this particular beggar has been "on the road" at the same corner since at least April. Judging from the many kind folks who toss him some loose change or a buck, his "luck" seems to be decent enough to keep him at this corner.

Anyways, far be it from me to pile on the down-and-out crowd, but if the guy is going to become a panhandling fixture, he ought to develop a shtick that can withstand the test of time. "Out of work" is always a good line, especially in tough economic times, as are pleas to "feed my family" or the simple "God bless you for your help."

My wife and I like to tease each other about our responses to panhandlers. There used to be a one-legged beggar who propped himself up with crutches on the off-ramp from eastbound I-475 at Corey Road in Sylvania Township. I started to roll down the window one day to give him a buck - figuring a one-legged guy had it worse than me - and she said: "You shouldn't give him any money - he'll probably spend it on drugs or booze."

She was right, of course, but I have to admit that a panhandler with an obvious physical disability is much more likely to get me to open my wallet than someone who looks like they could at least be working as a temp or at one of those day-labor sites. When we traveled in Europe last year I was tossing Euros to every paraplegic and blind person I passed in the subways, and every major city we visited in Portugal and Spain had tons of maimed beggars: people missing two or more limbs, people with horribly disfigured faces, and every other manner of human disability.

So the Perrysburg Panhandler faces a tough sell with me, which might be why he put the sign in front of his face when he saw my camera.

4 comments:

mikeb302000 said...

Here in Italy we have lots of beggars. People say it's because, compared to other European countries, the Italians are generous. My wife always discourages giving them money unless they work for it. We have the windshield washers at red lights who are mainly from Bangladesh. Some of them pump gas at the self-service stations after hours too. With those she likes to be generous. I do it more haphazardly.

mikeb302000 said...

Here in Italy we have lots of beggars. People say it's because, compared to other European countries, the Italians are generous. My wife always discourages giving them money unless they work for it. We have the windshield washers at red lights who are mainly from Bangladesh. Some of them pump gas at the self-service stations after hours too. With those she likes to be generous. I do it more haphazardly.

Randy said...

Just as important as a believable begging scenario is remebering to change it every so often. I have had the same couple approach me three times in the past year so, and each time they just got to town "that morning."

I give to panhandlers when I can on the "there but for the grace of God . . ." theory, but at least show me the minimal effort of thinking up new stories.

Bob said...

I gave money to one of these fellows ONCE. His sign read: "Who Am I kidding, I Need Beer"

I laughed my head off, an figured he should be rewarded for his honesty!

Still, in these times, under Obama, there are a LOT of hurting people out there