Saturday, September 16, 2006

Honesty is the Best Policy

I've gained a connoisseur’s taste when it comes to pan-handlers. I pass so many every day that I've developed a discerning and appreciative eye. Body odor, for instance, is certainly to be expected, but rank, stale, cheap, regurgitated beer is a quick disqualifier over simple couple-day-old sweat. Slurring out a demand for cash, combined with a leer and a suggestive hand gesture is also somewhat unendearing. No, higher points go to those who show a little initiative.

There is the Hari Krishna guy who sings his rather plaintive Krishna hymn every day under the 'art' on my way to work. He's been doing it for over a year now, and I've learned from him that there is only one Hari Krishna song, and apparently it only has one refrain of about eight bars. I think it also has only four words, but that might actually be two words with varying inflections. He has his guitar case open by his feet, but manages to seem utterly unaware of that fact, so entranced is he with his singing. He must get the shock of his life when he goes to put his guitar away and discovers all the change. Maybe he views it as a sort of monetary miracle of the virgin birth variety. Or maybe he seeds it with a few quarters and it's more loaves and fishes.

There's a fascinating aging hippie/entrepreneur who sets up shop now and then opposite Krishna man. He wears a slightly baggy suit (on a more than slightly baggy frame) and decorates himself with a scarf or a few strings of beads. He has trinkets for sale which makes him a dodgy type since technically he's supposed to get a permit, but by showing up only occasionally he has so far managed to avoid official eyes. He spreads his wares out, then talks about philosophy loudly to anyone who will listen and watches the young women out of the corner of his eyes.

Then there's karaoke man. It's more fun to watch the people passing him than to watch him - he's a bit boring actually: around thirty, slightly overweight, rather non-descript. But the people who pass him run an amusing gamut. Some walk by fiercely projecting that they have no idea there's a man belting out Bananarama's 'Venus' a semi-tone flat three feet away from them. Others have to stop and stare for a little while, shake their heads in disbelief, point out to their friends that there, right there, is a guy, a man, singing really badly, can you believe it? No - there. I saw someone stop and pull out a cell phone to call someone and share the experience - holding the phone up a few feet from karaoke man who sang blissfully on, smiling kindly at his audience. I'd like to think he has a hat down by his feet somewhere, because honestly I believe he'd do better than Krishna guy and the hippie combined.

But a couple of weeks ago I really had to give the pan-handling prize to the young man waiting for the bus. He was possibly the most perforated person I've ever seen - if he took all the studs out he'd qualify as a wind instrument - and sported the obligatory spiked hair and goth makeup. "Excuse me ma'am," he said politely, "could you spare some change for beer?"

I might have given him some too, just to encourage that sort of honesty. But it was 8 in the morning, and I do have some standards.

1 comment:

robin said...

'if he took all the studs out he'd qualify as a wind instrument'