New York City is a great monument to the power of money and greed... a race for rent.
Frank Lloyd Wright
On Monday as I swiped my card for the subway, a young man approached and asked if I had a dollar. He had to be, at the most, 35, young enough to be my son. I know him, but he doesn't remember me, or he pretends he doesn't. He resides in the shelter in my building, and for a short time, a very short time, he was one of our clients. That is how I 'know' that he is one of those who is milking the system for whatever he can get. He knows exactly what to tell a psychiatrist to get himself a diagnosis so he can be approved for Social Security. I'd really had a stressful day and told him in no uncertain terms that he 'ought to be ashamed of himself asking a senior citizen who, despite needing a cane to get around, goes out to work every day, for money, young healthy man that he is'. I also told him if he needs money he should get himself a job. They pay $10 an hour to hand out fliers.
Time was the panhandlers would ask for a quarter, but now inflation has set in. Why, I even had a young girl, actually, dressed quite well, approach me as I was on my way to work and ask me to buy her breakfast. Makes you shake your head and wonder. Hubby throws it right back at them. One time we were on the train headed into the city, a panhandler approached us and asked for a quarter. Hubby said, "I was just going to ask you for one." That man took off at the speed of light.
So, this post is for anyone planning a visit to the city. Please don't fall for any of the sob stories you may run into. At least 50 percent of the city's panhandlers are only trying to raise some money to buy their next bottle or drug. They'll come on the subway car with a prepared speech telling how hungry they are. Offer them an apple and see how quickly they take off. Believe me, this city has its faults, but there is NO reason for anyone to go hungry. Soup kitchens and pantries with free food abound. And, from what I have heard from several of my clients, most of them of it is pretty good and more than enough to satisfy.
Then there is another 25 percent are pulling a scam. Panhandling is their 'job', and some of them actually live better than most of us. There is a woman who has ridden the F train for about three years now, and her story is that her apartment burned down over the weekend, and she and her children have no money and no place to go. The really sad part of this is that she brings two beautiful little girls with her. This is a case where a mother deserves to have her children taken away from her. Just look at what she is teaching them.
Not too long ago a news reporter followed a subway panhandler and discovered that the man not only had a very nice car parked in a garage a few blocks away, but also lived in an upper class apartment on the East Side. Why someone would do this? Why would someone choose to dirty themselves up and spend their day scamming people out of their money? I don't know. Perhaps it gives them some cheap thrill to be getting over on the working class.
And, the last 15 percent are probably legit. For one reason or other they have lost their jobs and homes and either don't know how to maneuver through the system or choose not to. This is another I don't have answers for.
There is some wonderful talent to be seen on the subway--singers, musicians, accordion players, a magnificent violinist. These people are providing a service, and I will, if I have, tip them. Notice I said tip and not handout. There is one group, however, that no matter how talented they are, I do not tip. There is a group of teenagers who blast rap music and perform a wild break dance. Granted, their twists and turns are quite extraordinary, but (1) I cannot stand rap music and don't appreciate how loud they blast it; and (2) They scare me. Not in a violent sort of way where I am afraid that they are going to attack me, but when they dance, their arms and legs are flying everywhere and have never missed and hurt any, but they can, on occasion, come very close to one's face. I may be the only one, but I find it uncomfortable.
Let's see. Have I forgotten anyone? Ah, yes, seeing that I work for a non-profit agency, how can I forget those who are 'collecting for the poor' under the pretense that they work for a non-profit agency. Let me assure you now. No reputable agency would send employees to panhandle on the train, knowing that it is illegal. These people have phony badges made up and even go so far as to buying some cheap cold cuts and a loaf of bread to 'show us' that they are working to help the poor. Meanwhile, they are making out like bandits. Years ago when I worked in a halfway house we had two clients who were doing this. (We found out later after they were arrested). But, while they were carrying on their little business they walked around in fancy clothes and have gold chains around their necks.
So, there you have it, dear readers. All in a day's ride on a New York City subway. It's actually not so bad, really, once you are aware of what to watch out for. The panhandlers may be annoying, but they won't physically hurt you. And maybe, if you are really lucky, you will be blessed to see the little old man with the violin. His music makes the hair stand up on your arms it is so beautiful. The man creates magic.
Take care and hope you all have a great day.