Do You Look Like a Sucker?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by steve319, Jun 14, 2005.

  1. steve319

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    It isn’t every time, but occasionally when I’m visiting a more urban area, I get hit up for money. You know the deal: some guy on the street or in a parking lot comes up to you with a woeful tale about why he needs cash, whatever you can spare.

    Now, I know the issues here. I know that mental illness is a huge factor, just as it is becoming one in our prisons. I also know that, many times, cash will go to support a substance abuse problem instead of to food. I’ve always meant to purchase some of those McDonald’s gift certificates to carry along for these occasions, but I never have. Those factors aren’t what I’m getting at (though feel free to discuss those issues too), so stick with me here.

    On my last trip, I ran into another fellow with a big need. He used one of the standard stories—we’re in from out of town, the car broke down, and we’re trying to get the money to have it fixed and get home. (Most times, when I’ve encountered this one, there’s a “hook” like the unfortunate children who are stranded with them, one of whom is sick maybe, or a pregnant wife.) This guy certainly had a memorable twist on the tale, but that’s another topic altogether.

    My discussion point is this: I’m a bit surprised that I’m seen as such an easy take. I’m a big guy—tall, heavy, and with what I’ve been told is an intimidating demeanor (maybe it’s the goatee). Yet, I must carry the brand of the sucker to some degree for these guys to approach me so easily. It’s just a bit incongruous to me. I’ve had discussions with con men and convicts about how they choose a mark, but I don’t seem to fit any of the profiles.

    (I’m also, I must admit, something of a “freak magnet,” drawing the nuts, crooks, and head cases in a crowd right to me for conversation and confessions. :eyes: )

    So, anyway, do you look like an easy target? And how do you urban-dwellers handle these situations?
     
  2. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
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    Maybe it's a 'tell,' like that arrow-through-the-head doohickey you wear when out of town.

    I have, in the past, carried a few cards with the message "I am a deaf mute. Please buy this card for good luck." When a panhandler sees one of those he beats a quick retreat, cursing under his breath.
     
  3. major_7

    major_7 New Member

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    I, too, consider myself a freak magnet. I have been accosted all over the world by pickpockets, gypsies and thieves. Once, while in Rome, the damn gypsy women with 15 kids got my wallet, but I realized in time and fought to get it back successfully.

    When I was in Prague earlier this year, I had a group of three try to pickpocket me on the train, and I said in the loudest voice I could "WHAT THE FUCK!!!" and since that brought so much attention to them they all exited the train.

    I hate having the freak magnet gene that makes me so irresistible to them.

    I have learned to just keep walking and not to respond to them in any way.
     
  4. madame_zora

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    Steve, I think it has absolutley nothing to do with you, they hit up everybody. It's a numbers game, if they ask everybody, it increases their odds of hearing "yes".
     
  5. B_RoysToy

    B_RoysToy New Member

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    That's the score in Memphis, Jana. They don't seem to cull anyone here and my fear is it will only increase more as the Republicans stay in power. So I'll be truthful when I say I don't have any money, I use plastic for everything. I so seldom use cash that I know ahead of time to get just what I need before leaving home for the purchase.

    If I'm told that they are hungry, I tell them lunch is served daily at the church at Union and Cooper. I've had a few to actually ask me to take them there, since they don't know just where it is. So far I've declined providing the transportation :excl:
     
  6. DC_DEEP

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    Having spent some time in a few different urban areas, I know one of the things (and I know this really sounds cold) that attracts panhandlers toward one person more than another is eye contact.

    I understand that there are truly some needy people out there with a set of problems and circumstances that keep them in the street, regardless of how hard they try to get away from it. But unfortunately, those are in the minority. Most of the beggars and panhandlers simply find it easier to deal with than the rat race. That puts me in the unfortunate position of being a little more cold and heartless than I am really comfortable with.

    One thing we more fortunates should keep in mind - "the system" is NOT forgiving toward someone who has been homeless. Once you get out of the loop, it is nearly impossible to get a renewed ID without a phone number and mailing address. It is nearly impossible to get a phone or mailing address without an ID. It is nearly impossible to get a regular job (not as a day worker) without a mailing address, ID, and phone.

    I ease my conscience by choosing my charities carefully, and contributing what I can - money, goods, labor. I avoid the "big-name" places, I don't donate clothing or furniture or the like to Salvation Army or similar charities. I look for more locally-run, more volunteer-run things. I haven't found any locally, yet. But I used to contribute home-cooked food to one in my hometown called "Bethlehem House." It allowed homeless individuals or families to stay for up to 2 months. But during that time, they were required to look for employment, were given job-skills and job-hunting training. It helped them overcome most of those other "catch-22" address, phone number problems, while providing the REAL help they needed. Look for something similar near you, do what you can, and then when accosted on the street for a handout, you can direct them to better help than just a couple of bucks, and still have a healthy conscience.
     
  7. SpeedoGuy

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    I think Jana is right. Panhandlers hit on nearly everyone, especially those who accidentally make eye contact or those who are obviously trying to avoid eye contact.

    There are some truly needy people around so I occasionally donate money to the local shelter but I don't hand out coins to street panhandlers.

    SG
     
  8. B_DoubleMeatWhopper

    B_DoubleMeatWhopper New Member

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    I thought I had the perfect way to deflect panhandlers. One came up to me with a tale of his four hungry children, so I just said, "Perdóneme; no hablo inglés." I mean, it's worked a hundred times before. He looked at me and said, "Oh. Tengo quatro hijos y tienen mucho hambre..." Who would've thought that a gringo beggar with dirty blond hair and grey eyes spoke Spanish?
     
  9. major_7

    major_7 New Member

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    La mierda, actualmente, cualquier cosa es posible.

    EDIT:
    just practicing using my online translator
     
  10. steve319

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    It's uncanny, isn't it? Never so much been the victim of crime in that sense (famous last words), but certainly a bystander to the bizarre or the sad. I swear that most every time I get in a crowd, I end up standing next to the guy who's carrying on a conversation with himself or the girl who wants to tell me about the crazy boyfriend who blacked her eye.

    You know what I mean. :wacko:

    I end up in conversation with the guy who, minutes later, goes crazy and starts beating on the the woman who knocked his beer out of his hand--with her own purse! Or the middle aged woman who asks me to watch for security while she shoots up beside the vending machines. Or the teen who tells me, wiping away tears and out of freaking NOWHERE, that he just found out he's HIV positive and knows his dad will murder him.

    Don't know what it is. People tend to confide in me or go nutty in my presence. Maybe I send off vibes that make people particularly irrational?

    I'm heading out of town for the weekend for a concert and I'd be willing to bet that some surreal episode will occur. I'll keep you guys posted! ;)

    Thanks for the suggestions for how to handle this sort of thing! There are some clever and wise ideas here. (Love the cards, Pecker! :) Very cute.)
     
  11. VinceNYC

    VinceNYC New Member

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    Unfortunately, you must err on the side of being unfriendly in order to avoid this. It sounds like you're a friendly guy, and that's what people see.

    As a native New Yorker, I can tell you that there is a delicate balance between making enough eye contact to establish if the person approaching is a tourist needing help or a beggar and not slowing your 60 mph walking pace for more than a second to size up the situation.

    For example, if I think it's a tourist, Ill make eye contact, but I won't slow down. That way they quickly say "can you tell me how to get ..." and once I hear that, then I can stop.

    On the other hand, if I think it's a beggar, I may slow down, but I'll use my peripheral vision, rather than making eye contact, in order to establish if this person needs help. So I'm moving slower and looking forward, but I hear "hey, man, can you spare ..." and then I'm off again.

    It's funny, I never really thought of it until I saw this post. It's interesting how we adapt. In situations where I'm not walking, like sitting in a park or something, I tend to just give off an downright unfriendly vibe. That keeps most people away, including some who may be perfectly nice, though.

    To comment on another aspect of this, as was mentioned earlier, mental illness is a huge part of this problem, as is substance abuse and addiction. However, NYC has many places for homeless folks to go for food and shelter. My brother is one of them, in fact, so I know this to be true. Most times the people are too sick to understand that they need help or they just plain prefer things the way they are. That's hard to understand, but when drugs and alcohol are someone's life, they do in fact often choose the drugs over things like family and a place to live. Having experienced that first-hand, I find it a little easier to deal with. I also give a buck here and there just about every day.
     
  12. dufus

    dufus New Member

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    I had a man approach me with a woeful tale that he needed $35 to fill his big rig with gas to get home in another city. (Gas was cheaper then) A woman approached me wanting $55 to buy a bus ticket to Arizona. One young woman approached me on numerous occasions in grocery store lots and at filling stations saying that she and her husband had a small child and were being evicted from their apartment because they couldn't pay the rent. I watched her once and she went to a nice car where her boyfriend was waiting. Apparently they went from one parking lot to another. One night recently, it was pouring rain and I was putting bags of groceries into my car while trying to hold an umbrella over my head. A woman rode up on a bicycle asking for a handout. It was dark and she scared the living sh*t out of me. My standard answer is, "I am sorry but I have no cash on me." Once a scruffy man came up to me and asked me if I was a Christian. I ignored him, got into my car, and drove away.
     
  13. steve319

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    UPDATE:

    Pleased (?) to report that my freak magnet is clearly still functioning at top strength. While visiting the Museum of Natural Sciences on our out of town trip last weekend, a woman there came up to me asking where it was again that she could find the butterfly aviary. I was perplexed and explained that I didn't know, that we hadn't spoken, and that I had only just entered the place a few minutes earlier myself. She got quite angry with me, insisting that I had just told her where to find it and that it wasn't funny for me to lie like that and on and on. :eyes:

    For the rest of our time in the museum, we kind of kept an eye out for my doppelganger who was surely loose in the exhibits somewhere (and for this nutty lady who might feel the need to pounce on me again).

    My winning/losing streak continues...
     
  14. jay_too

    jay_too New Member

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    I dunno which is worse: Getting a story that strains credibility or a guy sticking a cup in your face as you walk by. With the first, you can just walk on by; with the second, he is partially blocking your way [a mini confrontation].

    Several years ago I shared a seat on BART with a panhandler. His spot was outside the building my company was housed in....so both of us knew each other by sight. He ended up telling me "I am a panhandler like you are an engineer....that is my job." Like me, he had a 30 minute commute to his job.

    jay
     
  15. Dr. Bubbles

    Dr. Bubbles New Member

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    People tend to flock to me as well. Generally, I will give them money if I am with a guy [brother, daddy, etc.], but if not, then I will leave -quickly. Because of past experiences, I tend not to be so trusting of men or women, especially those panhandling.

    My philosophy on giving or contributing... I am doing a good deed... if they misrespresent themselves or spend the money on something else then that is on them. They will answer to that, not me. Period.
     
  16. madame_zora

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    I talk to everybody, panhandlers, tourists, college kids, I'm indiscriminate. If I have money and feel like giving it, I do, if I'm broke, I tell them that too, or "it's just not your day". I honestly don't care what they use my dollar for, I have lots of good things in my life, their lives are considerably harder than mine regardless of the reasons. Been there, done that and people helped me get back on my feet. I've never forgotten that. I remember when I moved to a rural community how odd it was that no one ever asked me for money. I always kept a dollar in the outside pocket of my purse so I wouldn't have to dig around inside when asked, I don't like opening my purse in from of strangers. After several weeks, a lady at the gas station started to tell me some sob story of why she needed money, and I just stopped her and said, "don't worry, believe it or not, I've been waiting for you".
     
  17. Imported

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    hung_big:
    Yer a complex woman Jana, I'll tell you that much. Good on you for not minding giving money to the homeless....but I would rather not fuel bad habits.
     
  18. madame_zora

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    Wow, I've never considered being homeless a bad habit. If you are referring to drugs, I am certain I am more sympathetic to that than your average bear because of my own experience with alcoholism, I DON'T see it as a choice at all. No one would choose that, it just doesn't make sense. It is a chemical disorder, not a weakness of character, and I can assure you it was certainly not strength of character that got me sober, it was the county judge. Strength of character came long after a few years of continued sobriety, and being a complete wreck. I see myself when I look at them, I doubt that is their dream station in life either. No young person dreams of being a homeless alcoholic or crack addict, so how we view this stiuation as a society has kept us from improving it.
     
  19. jonb

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    I'm not really a sucker. I forward spam with headers to the ISP, I don't give to questionable charities, I don't ask psychics for advice. Oh, but squeegee men . . . I pay them triple, only because they're actually working.
     
  20. madame_zora

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    Aww, that's sweet. There's a guy around here that sells his poems for a dollar and I usually buy one when I see him, he's trying his best and the language he uses makes pretty clear how limited his work opportunites would be. I do like the ones who try to do something rather that just beg, but on the right day I'll pay either, just depends.
     
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