Posted: March 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

Not sure what to call this post. Maybe “Urban Legend Confirmed” or something along those lines. Nah, I’ll just leave it at “Hmmmmmmmm…”

We’ve all seen the guys on the on ramp or sitting on the sidewalk with a guitar or a sign, etc. I usually feel bad if I don’t try to help because I’m a softie. It’s true. If I have any cash on me, I’m likely to hand over a bit to a scruffy-looking hard luck case, in most cases with a smile on my face that reads “I am a sucker, take my money.”

You know…guys like this (NOTE: Borrowed pic, this is NOT the individual I am talking about):

Most of the time, I try to believe that I am actually helping someone who needs it, which makes me feel better about parting with my hard-earned. (Of which I have far too little.) One fellow, in particular, has gotten money from me on numerous occasions. This guy sits on the sidewalk by a parking garage in a ragged, one piece thermal suit with duck tape patches and more stains than Stephen Hawking has brain cells. His long, shaggy beard is unkempt and hides most of his ruddy cheeks. Usually he wears a tattered knit toboggan on his head. While he sits on the sidewalk, he plays an equally ratty guitar, which he carries in a beat up guitar case (again, duct tape patches, dirty, etc.) And waits for people to drop bills into either his guitar case or an old coffee tin.

Well, as I have said. I am a sucker for a hard luck story, and I’ve given this guy money on several occasions.

Saturday night, Heather and I decided to ge see THE CRAZIES (excellent movie!), and we parked in that same parking garage. Who do I see walking up the stairs but our ragged street musician with guitar case in hand. He looked kinda funny loading that beat up, ratty guitar case into the trunk of a (very) late model Lincoln Town Car.

Nope. Not kidding. This guy dresses like he has to fight cockroaches for food, plays on my sympathy, and apparently owns a car that cost more than my yearly salary. Go figure.

I can’t wait until the next time I see him on the sidewalk playing. I am going to ask him if that is his Pearl White Lincoln Town Car in space XX on floor X. If he says no, then I will say “Good. Because there’s a guy up there with a tow truck about to haul it away,” and see if he takes off running.

DISCLAIMER: I know there are needy people out there. Further, I know that this particular individual is not representative of every guy with a guitar sitting on the sidewalk and playing for loose change. Not everyone out there is trying to rip you off, and you should never feel bad about helping people who need it. But guys like this make it so hard to trust that you are actually helping someone in need, know what I mean? Shit like this really gets under my skin.

  1. Dan L says:

    This is nothing new in New York. There are people who do this for a living. YES, for a living. They actually make between $50K-$100K a year just panhandling. It has become a very lucrative business. And I am sure they don’t claim this as income on their taxes either. I remember reading a story where a journalist actually followed one of these “poor” people home and found out he lived in a nice posh neighborhood and drove a luxury automobile. Nice huh? This is also fairly prevalent in Europe in the metro stations. People handing out cards saying they are either deaf or mute and to please give them money.

  2. Lucas M. says:

    There is a long tradition of “busking” or street musicianship in the world. While I don’t agree with making yourself look needier than you are, I don’t begrudge people for playing on the street for change. I don’t consider it panhandling if they are playing music. We have a guy here in Spokane who plays harmonica by the big (posh) mall downtown and some of the downtown business people decided they wanted him gone, so they got the city to pass an ordinance prohibiting street music (which they did by placing noise limits). They harmonica guy fought it, and won, because the posh mall pipes music out onto the street in front of their location. Since they were unwilling to stop that practice harmonica guy (and now several people playing guitar) are free to play for change. So in this case, street musician guy actually made a stand for free speech (the ordinance could have made protesting illegal as well) and won. I still don’t give him money, but I respect what he is doing.

    • Dan L says:

      Let me clarify. I have nothing against street musicians. At least they are “working” for the money that people give to them. They are in essence providing a service in the form of “entertainment.” What I was referring to are the actual panhandlers who dress really ragged to elicit sympathy and thus more donations, but who are fairly well off to begin with. They just sit and beg. That’s their “job.” Then again, if you look at it another way, no one is forcing the general public to give them any money. They are not coercing anyone to give them money. If they can make a ton of money this way, then the only people to blame are those who are giving to them. I do agree with you Dave that they are doing this under false pretenses and therein lies the problem.

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