Thursday, June 09, 2005

how to be the 'bad guy'

----Last week, I volunteered to take a walk up 6th Ave to pick up some food Matt & I had ordered. It was a nice day, the sun was shining, beautiful people were out being beautiful, life was good and mexican food was eager to be in my belly... or visa versa. As I rounded the corner of Washington Place (my street) and 6th Ave, I saw our corner's ever-present, resident panhandler: a 6' tall black guy who's always dressed in what looks like very new clothes, never dirty, always sitting on a small stool he brings, always jangling his plastic cup pointedly at passer-by's. I've never liked this particular guy. He's been out there for over a year and always seems to be staring accusingly, blamingly, demandingly at the people passing by. I do not, at all, like this kind of panhandling. It's a rude slap in the face to the compassion and charity people extend to the needy. The sense of entitlement and judgement for those who dont give, the labelling and snide stares.... Grrrr. it burns me up. It took me months to realize that NY panhandlers, on the whole, are a lot nicer than they are in SF, are a lot less agressive, are a lot more motivated to provide a service - usually entertainment via an instrument or solo singing or harmonized singing or dancing (seriously, i almost got hit in face by a kid who was doing a HEAD spin on a crowded, MOVING subway train) - or they will tell a story of how they got to the unfortunate state they're in and what they're doing to get out of it. I respect those methods, absolutely. They are either doing something to earn their money or doing something to get out of their current situation. It's the habitual, easy-ride panhandlers who know they can make $40 to $100 a day panhandling and have no intention of stopping that bothers me.
----BUT I DIGRESS..... So I turn to walk up 6th Ave - I know I have to pass this guy - As I do, I'm not looking at him, but I hear him say "PUH-LEEEZE MASSA, PLEEEZE!! Pleeeze Massa, Pleeeze!!" - for those of you not fluent in very old school racism, "massa" = "master", ie. I was, I guess, his white, slave-owning, land owner and he was my lowly slave, begging for pity. I couldn't F'n believe my ears. I knew this guy was an ass, but I had no idea how much so. He said the same thing maybe four times, back to back, looking at me with mock sorrow, hating me all the way, I guess for never giving him money.
----If you know me, you know how I'm all sweetness and light but you might also know that I dont stand for being called out publically by individuals, for stupid sh!t I have no business being called out for. I just dont. I usually end up making a small scene as I talk smack right back or make the person back down from what they've said and I usually hear this from whoever I'm with: "kory, seriously... let it go... c'mon, let's go". I'm not particularly proud of that aspect of myself. I'll probably end up being goaded into a physical fight at some point, but... I digress.. Again...
----So.. I know I have to do something to not let this arsehole-panhandler guy get away with what he's said. I dont want to stop and talk it out, obviously, 'cause that'd just be fruitless... So, I turn and flip the guy off as I'm walking away. As I do it, I realize that it's been so long since I've flipped someone off, that I've forgotten how to do it. It doesn't feel natural. I dont bend my index and ring finger like I used to in elementary and middle school... I just raise my middle finger and huddle the rest of my fingers tight. AS I am thinking about HOW I went about flipping him off, I suddenly become aware of this fact: as far as other people who have seen this happen, I am now a guy who just flipped off a homeless guy. And sure enough, as I continue walking up 6th Ave, I see people looking at me then looking at the homeless guy then back to me, wondering why the hell I just flipped off that poor homeless guy.
----The best part may have actually been that when I -did- flip him off, he smiled and laughed a hearty, approving laugh like he: A) had finally gotten the reaction he was looking for in someone B) respected me a little more because I didn't just let him get away with it C) had found a unique response in the "what would happen if..." game he was playing.
----I felt kinda used after that. He got what he wanted with my reaction but all I got was a new label: Guy Who Flips Off Homeless Guys.

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