Dependable Erection

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Interesting panhandling experience last night walking back to the car on Parrish Street from the "impromptu" St. Patrick's Day parade.

Guy comes up to us walking down the middle of the street at the corner of Parrish and Roxboro, clearly inebriated and possibly not in possession of his full faculties otherwise. Makes a big deal of shaking my hand and thanking me for not being afraid of him. Asks if he can talk to us, and we move out of the street onto the sidewalk. Can't recall if he took his hat off or not, but begins this speech about Jesus, ministers, ex-girlfriends, good hearts, etc., for about 5 minutes in which maybe one word out of 8 is actually intelligible.

Stops, looks and me, and says, "hey, can I just skip through this and get right to the point?" Which i thought was pretty wonderful in its own way.

The point, though, turned out to be another mostly unintelligible 5 minute spiel about needing to get to Butner or Oxford or some place out of town at which point i cut him off and told him i was sorry, but i needed to get the puppy home and didn't have either the time to listen to him or the money to give him.

I have lived in Durham for 17 years, you know. And in that time no one has topped the freelance philosopher i met on Ninth Street that first summer who offered, for a buck, to create a philosophy of life for me on the spot.

Either way, growing up in New York City, where pandhandlers are more numerous, varied, and creative, not to mention the two times in my life where i did my own panhandling, leaves me with a jaded view of Durham's street beggars.

Raise your game, people, if you want Durham to have the respect it deserves.



  • I've run into this dude before, or one matching the description so completely as to be effectively the same dude.

    I think he's rather famous, as far as hobos go. Seems like I've seen others talking about him on various Durham mailing lists.

    In a show of my own particular flavor of NC-country-boy-in-the-big-city-of-Durham naiveté, I once actually responded to a similar spiel from a different Durham hobo. I offered not money, but a free ride to whatever location he claimed to be trying to reach. In exchange for my hospitality, said hobo lifted my wallet right off me; so deftly, in fact, that I didn't even notice until I was back home.

    Now that I'm older and wiser and bitter and spiteful, I instead offer hobos a complementary call to a friendly police officer, who would surely help them through whatever particular dire circumstance they were suffering.

    The moral of this story: Welcome to Durham. Kindly check your Southern Hospitality at the city limits.

    By Blogger Jeremy T, at 2:41 PM  

  • Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've run into that guy, too.

    My personal favorite are the unbelievable (literally) numbers of guys I've met who "just broke down" and "just need a couple of bucks" and who have neither a credit card nor a cell phone. It's like downtown is some sort of Bermuda Triangle for cars.

    The other was the guy who accosted me outside the YMCA one night who was "a minister at NC Central", who got pretty irate when I pointed out that I was sure the good folks just inside the YMCA would be happy to call someone for him.

    By Blogger Brian, at 4:43 PM  

  • God bless the actual minister who ever has a car break down around here. No one would believe him.

    Last week I got stopped by a panhandler downtown. I was in a hurry so I gave him my "sorry, I don't give on the streets -- go to Urban Ministries of Durham for a meal or bus tickets" which really ticked him off. "EXCUSE ME" he said. "You don't even know what I'm asking for."

    And you know, he was right. So I listened for a while, verified that he was nuts, but still gave him some money because my principle of giving everyone a certain kind of politeness/respect trumped my principle of don't give money on the street. Oh well.

    For what it's worth, the dude's crazy schpiel was much more interesting than most of the regular pitches I have around here. His description of his leg that needs surgery, his mother who's getting her stomach taken out with a butter knife, and the fact that he's going to be the next president of the United States who will protect me while I sleep was not only imaginative, but poetic in its delivery. I guess that's because he's an ordained minister.

    The next day I got accosted by a guy who said he just got out of prison and needed bus fare. That was a new one. I didn't give (cited policy of not giving on the street -- try Urban Ministries of Durham, then wished him luck).

    Over in my Tuscaloosa-Lakewood neighborhood, the listserv is busy with reports of a repeat-offending fraudulent minister, and another person (or maybe the same) who actually steals stuff then tries to sell it back to you and another person (or maybe the same) who has actually entered people's homes and asked for money with an unsteady voice. I say a prayer for all these people. And hope they don't show up inside my apartment.

    Two weeks ago a fellow approached me downtown (on a Friday night, I think) and asked if he could use my cell phone to call his wife. Something about his delivery (including the genuine manner in which he expressed frustration with others turning him down, or maybe the part that he was coming FROM Greensboro (the complete opposite of all the lying stories of people who want to go TO Greensboro) made me believe him. So I stopped and we made the call.

    We were outside Beyu Caffe at the time. I wonder what Dorian and his staff would have done if he had come in. I'm sure they've gotten lots of walk-in requests for various things, and I'm sure it's tough to deal with. And yet Dorian keeps smiling -- amazing.

    By Blogger Marsosudiro, at 9:45 AM  

  • We recently had someone cuss us out down the street. He started by thanking us for not being scared to talk to him, said he just wanted to talk, then gave a tired story about needing just a little bit. We listened waiting for his story to get good, but it was just the usual stuff. When we told him sorry, we didn't have any cash, he was offended that we had wasted his time.

    By Blogger Natalie and Harris, at 12:04 PM  

  • Yeah, he tried to give me some of that when we were walking down the street in the same direction. He accused me of following him. I told him i was heading to my car and didn't really care where he was going.

    I much prefer the direct approach - "Got any spare change?" - if you're not going to recite poetry or play the Tarantella on the accordion.

    By Blogger Barry, at 12:11 PM  

  • I tell them the truth: "I don't believe you" and walk on. I don't care how poetic the story is, it's still a lie, and I have no patience for liars.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:14 AM  

  • One night on Ninth Street, sitting outside the restaurant that became Chubby's, getting ready to eat. A man comes up and says hey, that smells really good, could you spare some for me?

    I've known hunger and I will never knowingly let a person starve when I can help it. So I told him let's go inside and I'll order for you.

    I let him select a dinner and a drink. The funny thing that made me laugh was while we were waiting for the food, he asks me, hey while we're here, could I get a dessert?

    Damn, I thought that's some balls but then realized outside the shelters and food pantries, he may not have the opportunity to have something different much less an actual dessert. So I bought him one, too. he thanked me and left with the carryout. The guy who owned the place tried to give me my money back but I told him if you didn't keep it the register, I would put it in the tip jar.

    However, I too have grown tired of the simple hey, can I have some money and the same stories they tell. I do not give money or let anyone use my phone. But the next person who tells me they're hungry, I will feed them.

    By Blogger At the End of the Day, at 12:52 PM  

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