08 February 2009

This Guy Probably Worked for Lehman Brothers Not Too Long Ago

1938.An example of the kind of beggar we grow around here:

At work, a cow-orker of mine named Mary related the story of a clever bus-fare beggar.

"I got chiseled!" says she.

"Oh, you did," said I.

"Yeah. I was coming to work on TriMet and this guy came up to me and asked me for some change for the bus. He said he wanted a dollar. He was real thorough, and said he needed $1 because he had to get over to Northeast Rodney Avenue, and that he thought he had to take the 75, and go just a couple of miles."


"But I didn't have a dollar. So I said 'would you settle for a bus ticket', because that would solve his problem. And he said that would be fine, thanks. So I gave him the bus ticket. And you know what happened next?"


"Well, you know thos MAX machines?"

"You mean the ticket machines?"

"Yeah. Anyway, he sees this lady going to buy a ticket from it and ... well within my hearing ... says 'Hey, lady, you know those tickets are two dollars. I can let you have this ticket of mine for $1'. And you know what? He sold the ticket to her."


"Yeah, I was so chiseled."

I laughed out loud. "That's amazing! He got the ticket from you and sold it to someone else at a discount, and still walked away with the legal tender!"

"That seems wrong though."

"Well, yeah, it kind of is, but that is one clever homeless person, isn't it?"

You see, he assesed the situation and was able to exploit it to make himself a cash profit. Sadly, his ambition only went out to about a dollar's worth, but that's some entrepreneurial spirit there, no mistake about that! And Mary gave birth to a little microeconomy there.

And a little cosmic humor besides.

Oregon: things do indeed look different here!

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Snowbrush said...

"Well, yeah, it kind of is, but that is one clever homeless person, isn't it?"

Well, I don't know about that unless homeless people are presumed to be pretty low in intelligence, and therefore any evidence of it that they demonstrate is taken as impressive.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

As you might expect, when I first read your comment, a little voice in me got a little defensive.

But then I took a real good look at the line and I got your point. You made a good one.

I didn't actually assume the "homeless" (and to be completely honest, the "homeless" part was an assumption on my part as well) was of low intellect. If anything, he's probably kind of ground down by events.

I actually saw it as a clever thing for any person to do. I would have thought the same had the person not been begging.

So maybe I should have just said that that was one clever person, not one clever "homeless" person.

I'm still delighted by the gumption and nerve of the fellow.

But I didn't think he was any more or less intelligent than anyone else necesssarily.

Thanks for the comment, and thanks for pointing something very germane out.

Snowbrush said...

Samuel. Yes, I did expect, and I appreciate your thoughtful response.

"I'm still delighted by the gumption and nerve of the fellow."

I'm just appalled. I didn't see it as at all clever. I have a dog that figured out how to use a frisbee to carry a ball, thereby transporting both her toys at once. For a dog, that's brilliant, but for a homeless man to sell an object of charity for money isn't at all brilliant. It is cruel, and it is even self-defeating to the extent that it could serve to reduce people's desire to help him and other homeless people.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Well, you know, the more I think about it the less "funny" I find it really.

Perhaps I found it funny at all is because I've gotten pretty cynical about panhandlers. We grow a particularly entrepreneureal sort of beggar here in Portland. With our surfeit freeway offramp bottlenecks and multiplicity of high-traffic intersections there seems to have grown a peculiar industry involving the best corners to hold your sign on and even a seniority "pecking order" as to who gets the best ones.

One of our alt-weeklies interviewed a few of them and it's a cutthroat economy.

It's also the reason I don't give money to Portland panhandlers. The good faith that a streetside mendicant in POrtland might have had with a potential donor is a ship that sailed around here long ago.

Still I found it funny. Maybe it's the absurdity of the act and the cheek of the man.

You've got a point there though when you mention (If I may paraphrase) that every time a beggar does this it makes it less likely that a person will throw them a few coins later for whatever reason.

I'm betting my co-worker Mary probably won't give any beggar a ticket to ride TriMet again.

pril said...

In September in Coos Bay I was asked by a scruffy person if I had a dollar. I didn't, so I asked him if he had one. He did, and he gave it to me.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


That is just such a strange thing but somehow it doesn't surprise me at all.

But a thought just occurred to me: did he, for whatever reason, think you needed it more than him?