Well, it certainly has been a while, hasn’t it. Hey remember a while back when I wrote that thing about homeless people? No, of course not, no one reads this site! Well, anyway, it turns out I posted it, then forgot about it. So I wrote a second draft. Here it is. Think of it as somewhere between a re-run and a directors cut. Or as a dumb mistake. Either one.
Ah, Bums. If you grew up in a large urban center, you are well aware of them. I’m sure small towns have their share of drifters, and any place with a train station has had a hobo or two, but if you want a really enterprising and professional bum, you really need a city. Heck, speaking for myself, I don’t really feel like I’m in a city until I see my fifth pizzeria or my second bum. Homeless people have garnered an interesting spectrum of reactions from the general public, though. Most folks seem to treat them like smelly, lumpy pieces of the urban landscape. Sort of like a parking meter that follows you around for a while, or a mailbox with a beard. They aren’t so much people as a visual cue that you should probably pay closer attention to your wallet. That’s not how everyone feels, though.
First are the people who are moved to charity, and believe me, there’s a bunch. Indeed, there are whole organizations for helping homeless people. While unquestionably worthwhile, I find this odd. Why? Well, as has been pointed out many times before, the homeless do have homes. They just live on the street. Just because it doesn’t have walls and a roof doesn’t mean it isn’t a home. So what they really lack are houses. Heck, I don’t own a house. Does that make me homeless? Can I go to Comic Relief and say, “Hey, listen, get Whoopi Goldberg to come out here and tell some dirty jokes. I’m tired of living in my parents’ house.” No, of course not. I’m all for helping people out who are in need, but the specific lack of a house shouldn’t be a prerequisite. Otherwise you’re eventually going to see charities for people without cars, then without boats. I’m going to try to get ahead of the curve and start a charity for people who don’t have broadband. Now THAT is a worthy cause.
On the other hand, there are a lot of people who actively hate the bums. “Can you believe this? Coming up and asking for money. Screw him!” As though Stinky McNoTeeth got hooked on heroin and ruined his life just to inconvenience decent, hard working people. I can understand being annoyed, but hating them? Come on. Imagine, for a moment, the person you hate most in the world. You hope something really bad happens to this person, right? Like, maybe being reduced to eating three month old cat food and going years between showers. Well that ALREADY HAPPENED to this guy. You don’t have to say “Screw him” because that guy has been screwed long and hard already. Heck, if you hate homeless people, you should be HAPPY when you see them. You are witnessing a punishment in progress.
I realize, of course, that many people are angry at the homeless because they don’t think they ARE homeless. That they are just lazy unemployed drug addicts. Ignoring the fact that drug addiction doesn’t look so good on your resume, thus limiting their employment options, have you ever stopped to think that maybe this IS their job? I mean, these same people who hate the homeless tend to be far less judgmental when confronted with the ol’ “guitarist with his case full of quarters,” or “busker” for those of you up on your street profession terminology. And the caricature artists are so accepted that you can take your date down to have a portrait made and she’ll find it endearing. Beggars are just another kind of street performer, like mimes, only more interactive. You know those people in three cornered hats and buckled shoes traipsing about Colonial Williamsburg spouting ye olde talk and hitting hoops with sticks? In a hundred years they’ll be paying big bucks to actors to pretend to be bums and you’ll pay admission to be harassed by them whenever you visit “New York Town.” So I toss these guys a handful of change when I see them. “Oh, you shouldn’t give them money. They’re going to spend it on liquor and drugs.” So? He earned the money. Let him spend it on what he wants. That’s probably what the creepy drive-thru attendant at the McDonald’s was going to spend it on, and I still gave HIM money. And all he did was hand me some McNuggets. B. O. Plenty over here made me a part of his performance piece. It’s like when the Blue Man Group comes down into the audience and brings someone on stage for a while, only more spontaneous and with a slightly higher risk of hepatitis. So I say enjoy it now! Heck, it’s the only show on Broadway that only costs a quarter.