Sunday, April 15, 2007

On The Road

As we left The Devil's Playground this morning, (and by morning, I mean 11:58 a.m.), we saw a man standing on the corner by the stoplight. He had a beard, and was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He held up a sign made of a piece of cardboard box that had written on it: "On the road. Any amount will help." We rarely see these people around here. In fact, he's the first one I remember seeing. Ever. And as my students will tell you, I'm so old that my Social Security number is '1'.

I don't know why I was surprised. Perhaps it was because he didn't even make a pretense of writing: "Will work for food." No. I suppose he did not want to work. After all, he was on the road. What does that mean? Is he traveling somewhere? Why not: "California or bust!"? Does he think he's Jack Kerouac? Is he walking? Driving? Homeless? Why not just write: "I live under the bridge and need money for meth."?

I've been thinking about this all day. Would he not have been better off, on a Sunday morning, to go to a local church, attend services, and stand in the parking lot as people left? "Help a brother out," he might write. Or maybe a scriptural quote. Why stand at the entrance to The Devil's Playground? Because where he was standing, he was only getting the traffic leaving the Playground. People are not so charitable after having the Devil to pay.

When I worked in the city, I saw these people all the time. But at least they offered to 'work for food', or sold pretzels at the red lights. There was an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch once about a man who did this for a living. He earned more than I did, working for the State of Missouri. Don't tell me that he provided a valuable service. I don't think the demand is really that great for pretzels that are sheathed in a tube of waxed paper, absorbing exhaust fumes all day. People wanted to help. And he made more money than some of those people. Not that he didn't deserve it. He WAS out working. Same as people who sell drugs get out and work. At least they don't lie around watching their big screen TVs, drawing disability benefits on their kids whom they've had declared disabled by teaching them to fake mental disorders, or learning disabilities. Don't call me heartless, people. You wouldn't believe how much of this goes on. I'm not talking about kids who really ARE disabled. It's the scamming parents who piss me off.

Anyhoo...getting back to my beggar...I really wanted to stop and ask him his story. I didn't, because I had one of the boys with me, and because I was raised not to stop and talk to men holding cardboard signs asking for money. But I can't stop wondering. What if I had stopped, and said, "Look, Buddy. I'm going to give you $10. But for that $10, I want to know the true story. You don't have to make up a sob story. You're going to get the $10 no matter what. Just be honest with me. Are you really on the road? Where? Why? How'd you get here? Did you run out of money, or never have any to begin with? Are you on the lam? Are you headed to a funeral for a long-lost relative? Going to Florida to look for work? A serial killer looking for new victims? Do you live in a van down by the river? Is this sign really your line of work? How much do you make in a day? I'm just curious. Can you do that for me? For $10? Because you're going to get it anyway. And I'm not going any higher."

Do you think he would have told me the truth? Or made something up?

Would I have known the difference?

9 comments:

Betty said...

He'd have probably raped and killed you.

Betty said...

OK, I was just kidding. But, you might have heard more than you wanted to know.

Cazzie!!! said...

I reckon he would tell you his story. But, I would first have said, " Look mate, I have 4 kids and a house to pay off, so what would my ten dollars do for you that it couldn't for me?" Like that!!
Or, in the fashion oif my grandad, I would have wound down the window of the car and said, " Buy a bike ya bastard!!"

Redneck. Diva. said...

Hillbilly Mom, I do believe we've just seen your more sensitive, deep side. I'm a little teary-eyed.

This was a great post.

LanternLight said...

Probably would have fed you a line of BS.

I'm always happy to give someone a hand-up, but never a hand-out.

Word verification: bmmag

Hillbilly Mom said...

Betty,
Always the optimist, eh?

Yeah, sometimes I have to tell my students: TMI. Which of course, they know means TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

Cazzie,
It DID bother me that he was not even offering to work for his handout.

Diva,
I hope you're being sarcastic about my 'sensitive side'. Because I didn't feel a bit sorry for him. Only curious. That $10 would have been the price of entertainment. It's way cheaper than taking the kids to the movies.

Lantern,
See, that's what I think about those scammers. Even though you offer them $10 with no strings attached, I think he would have lied about his situation. Once a con, always a con.

I would suggest that you don't read that word verification 'mag'. It's a dark subject, methinks.

Redneck. Diva. said...

Riiiight....I was being sarcastic.

:-P

Really though, I thought it was a very well-written post, Hillbilly Mom. Very deep.

LanternLight said...

I was thinking bmmag = bUm magAZINE

Hillbilly Mom said...

Diva,
Thank you.

Lantern,
Your magazine sound better than the one I imagined. The BM thingy got to me.