Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting People To Give

It's holiday time, and by 'holiday' I, of course, mean "Christmas". 

Don't look at me like that!  Sure I know there are other holidays at this time of year, but America is decorated and preparing for Christmas.  Even here in the desert, shop windows are painted with accounts of snowmen in red and green scarves (that have nothing to do with chilis) abiding the arrival of the dude in red with a sleigh.  Luminaries adorn building boundaries, lights blink maniacally as if the Christmas light companies own stock in Tegretol, and every grocery/box store front you walk into has someone wringing the neck of a tiny -but very shrill- bell.

Stores are advertising sales, no actually they're selling sales, with advertisements depicting snowflakes and red ball ornaments because this is the season where we think fondly on everyone and try desperately to find something suitable to wrap and give them to indicate our fondness.  Oh man, don't get me started on the gift giving thing, I'll never stop!  But let's step back outside this store for a moment and take another look -fingers in your ears if you must- at the sentry ringing the bell.

Usually adorned with a Santa hat, warm mittens, a red kettle and surprisingly no ear plugs, we expect these people from the Salvation Army to be catching our attention in culturally sanctioned begging.  Begging isn't a new thing by any means, but perhaps it's more successful when warmly dressed representatives beg for money in the name of "others".  But these are volunteer beggars.  What of those who beg routinely for themselves?

I went out today to shop.  No, not for others.  I don't celebrate Christmas and the Christian part of my family is long since passed (sadly, yes, but I don't worry about buying presents anymore).  No, I went because I've been wanting to go shopping for days, I felt crappy, and even though I don't really need more clothing I feel better coming home with something new.

Abq has several fine thrift stores and I couldn't quite decide how I wanted to use the buses.  Take the 141 all the way to Savers and then back to Menaul for Thrift Town?  Or take Lomas down to the 5 to Thrift Town first?  Which ever way I went, it was a long trip, Sunday being the subpar day for public transit.  Rather than waiting for many of these buses to make an appearance, I walked most of the way. 

I had almost reached Carlisle and I was feeling hungry.  "This smell will be the death of me" I lamented as my mouth watered coming upon a Sonic.  I veered towards the outdoor menu as a long, gangling man with shaggy hair, a base ball cap and his pants allowing a large draft through to his nether regions flopped loudly and expressively on the metal seat of the Sonic eatery.

"Got eny change, girl?" he shouted out as I redirected my trajectory to put me back on the sidewalk.

I admit it.  I find loud noise draining.  I find surprising loud noises anxiety producing and triggering.  I find strange men making surprising loud noises scary.  The 5 wasn't arriving for another 1/2 hour, so I decided it was a good time to find out if Lotaburger is any good. 

And also, 'girl'?  I know that's what the world has a tendency to call people who look like me, but if you're going to ask me a favor you'll have better luck comparing me to a tree or a window shade than a prepubescent.

I took the 5 to Lomas.  As I waited to cross the street, two men approached from the other side of the walk.

"Hey, you got some change for us?"

They were already very close to me.  One had some sort of device held in front of him, a radio maybe with one antennae.  I hastily stepped back onto a higher part of the sidewalk as they passed murmuring "Uh, no.  Not today".

I believe in giving money to beggars.  Really.  And under usual circumstances I probably would have given change to the two men with the radio.  My propensity to give is directly and inversely tied to my fear reaction.  I doubt those who beg have much use for thinking in those terms.  Maybe you'd get better results judging how each person is most likely to give you money, but the tried and true method seems to be ask as much and as many as you can -regardless of how it affects that person- because you gotta get something.

While it's sad that some people need to beg to live (and some beg but do not need to to live), if that assessment of the method of begging is true, it could feel a wee bit creepy.  It's one of those "my need is greater than your comfort" arguments. *shudder*

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