Thursday, January 10, 2008

Change, sparingly

“You’re not gonna believe this,” says co-worker Josh yesterday morning.

“SpareSomeChange lady was chatting on a cell phone last night.”

There’s a homeless woman who sits in the middle of the Jackson Street Bridge for the afternoon rush.

Her face is severely wind burned from years of living outside. She sports a somewhat affected blank stare as she yells to commuters heading for the train station:

“HIIIcanuSPAREsumCHANNNGE?”

The yell never varies. And there’s a unique cadence to it (okay honestly, it sounds semi-retarded but anyhoo) that carries for blocks. She says it every 30 seconds so if the wind is right you can hear it a good five or six times before making it into the merciful mayhem of Union Station.

“HIIIcanuSPAREsumCHANNNGE?”

“HIIIcanuSPAREsumCHANNNGE?”

“HIIIcanuSPAREsumCHANNNGE?”
~~~~~~~~~
“Where does the bill get sent?” I ask. “Care of homeless lady at Jackson on the river?”

“Maybe it’s a phone with pre-paid minutes.”

There were more questions.

Was she really chatting or was it an emergency? Did she need fresh socks and a weather report or was she bleeding? Nope. Nope.

I’ve written about this before. Remember the homeless dude with the shiny new headphones?

It’s all about marketing.

If you’re gonna beg for money, at least try to look like you need it.
~~~~~~~~~
Even though it is against my policy, I gave her some money at Christmas. I have no idea why, except that she was there as always and I happened to have $5 in my right coat pocket.

Actually it was my left pocket.

But I reached into the right one and SpareSomeChange lady swung into action: She perked right up and looked me in the eye, ready to (I thought) thank me.

Oops. Wrong pocket.

I kept walking, trying to find the five and she slumped back down.

I had a quick thought to keep walking but knew it would be cruel, so I went back and dropped the crinkled up bill into her grubby Styrofoam cup.

She didn’t thank me. And I was okay with that, having pulled the pocket psyche thing on her.
~~~~~~~~~
“Here’s a thought,” I tell Josh later. “Someone who really loves her pays for the phone so that they can check in on her. To hear her voice and know she’s okay.”

That’s what I’m going with.

We can choose to believe the worst or the best about people. This time I'm sure the answer is sitting somewhere in the middle.
~~~~~~~~~
I am listening to: INXS – Don’t Change
I am reading: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
And I am: Thirsty

5 comments:

Posolxstvo said...

...today's necessities were yesterday's luxuries...

There was a time when only the very rich had indoor plumbing.

And cell phones.

msmoo1 said...

"HIIIcanuSPAREsumCHANNNG Shrill Voice Lady" is a scammer. I cannot stand scammers. If there is a REAL need - I do not mind helping - food, no problem, need a warm coat, scarf, gloves, etc. - I can try and hook you up.

But....several months ago I was walking over "her" bridge and she was not only talking on a cell phone, but talking in a PERFECTLY NORMAL voice and this is what I heard her say as I passed "He just doesn't want to have to deal with the kids, that's all!"

From that day forward I look at her with completely different eyes. I look directly at her every time I cross the bridge and I tell her in silence - I know you are a scammer!

hammer

Dave said...

I was walking down a commercial street in Burbank, CA a few years ago on my way to have dinner. Ahead of me there was a guy with a cup walking as if he had an advanced degenerative disease. He spastically shook his cup at passers by.

On my way back to the hotel after dinner, I say him walking away down a side street, needless to say, walking normally.

Then there was the woman I used to see at a corner begging each day on my way to work. One night I happened to see her in quite nice clothes walking from her quite nice car into a quite nice restaurant.

Hedy said...

I've seen several of the same things among the regulars around the train station. A 'veteran' sitting in a wheel chair one day, then running (fast) up Michigan to get to his spot another day. The thing about SpareSomeChange lady is she comes off as mentally impaired, but as Ms. Moo noted, she's clearly not. Lesson learned. For just $5.

the dilf said...

I bet she votes democratic