I was leaving a restaurant with my friend, when a homeless man accosted him. I was interested to see how someone less jaded at the world than I would deal with the homeless, so I watched carefully. The homeless man said, "Got any spare change?"
My friend lied and said, "No," and got in his car.
What the homeless guy meant was, "Do you have any spare change you're willing to give to me?" But, the way he phrased it set my friend up to either lie or lose his money. Lying to homeless people is bad karma, and so probably is wasting your cash.
There is another option, which is to act like an asshole. To answer the spare change question truthfully, without giving any change, you'd have to say something like this, "I do have change. However, I choose to spend my change on something besides you." That is acting like an asshole. I guess you could just say, "Yes," and walk away, but that's being even more of an asshole.
My friend lied, but, his choices were all bad choices. They were: 1) act like an asshole, 2) lie, 3) foolishly throw away his hard-earned money. Since he picked one of them, it was bad karma.
Good karma comes from being nice, telling the truth, and spending money on something meaningful. I can't figure a way to win with homeless people. I can't even figure a way to not lose.
A homeless man hugged me once. He's also the homeless person who swindled me out of the most money.
He said to me, "Sir. Excuse me, Sir. I am very, very sorry to bother you, but..." and then he told a sad story where I assumed he was an executive from a California company who just took a bad turn in Minneapolis.
He kept talking to me about his leather jacket and how a common bum wouldn't ever wear clothing like that. He said he was really embarrassed to have to ask me for the money. Then he said something about his car being impounded and how he needed twenty bucks to un-impound his car.
His wallet and keys were locked in his car and the bums at the impound lot wouldn't even let him hire a locksmith to get his stuff out of his car until he paid the twenty bucks to get his car back.
Plus, the Minneapolis police were assholes, he said. He may have used another expletive, but I do remember him saying, "Pardon the vulgarity" as a preface to his comment about Minnesota's finest.
His story went on and on. He also told me if I were to give him the twenty bucks, then I would get it back very, very soon, because he had the money, but just didn't have current access to it.
He then referenced his leather jacket one more time.
I, being the kind of guy who always gets tricked by homeless people whenever I hear a new variation to the story, decided to give him money. I thought, "Well, if his story is true, then he will need more than just twenty bucks." I reached in my wallet and gave him forty bucks.
He smiled, tearing up, and then gave me a huge hug. He was a large man, and smothered me with his hug.
He reeked. You know the kind of reek that some people have on them and when you even get close to them, you smell their smell on you for days? You know the kind of reek where you can smell it even after you take a shower? He reeked that kind of reek.
I then knew he was actually homeless. Plus, he skipped down the street, yelling "Yippee! Yippee!"
I was left standing there, forty bucks poorer, reeking, and thinking, "Didn't he just say I would get my money back soon? Since he skipped off without even taking down my address, how's he going to get it back to me?"
As a change of subject, if I were homeless, I would drink all of the time. Homelessness is probably just like camping. I really want to like camping, but I used to hate it as a scout. My plan to make camping cool is to be drunk the whole time. If it were me, and if I were homeless, I would want to drink all the time.
This is why I strongly advocate buying alcohol for homeless people. I tried it the first time on a trip to Vegas. But, it was with some of the Utah 3.2% alcohol beer I purchased in Saint George on the way to Las Vegas, not the 7.5% beer you can get in Las Vegas. My guess is an hour later, after the homeless man drank my beer, expecting pleasant drunkenness, he was probably still sober thinking, "Oh man, I'm not drunk at all. This camping homelessness isn't any fun, man." So that probably wasn't good karma for me.
Like I said, homeless people are neutral karma at best.
- Homeless People figurines
- The Homeless Guy blog
- Survival Guide to Homelessness
- Homelessness is not a crime
Photo purchased from iStockphoto.