Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Ran into a panhandler yesterday with a technique I hadn’t experienced before: shouting. It might not even have been a bad technique, if used correctly. Shouting at me triggers my fight or flight response, compelling me to either punch you in the face or get away from you as fast as I can. I have never in my life punched anyone in the face. I’ve never even been in a fight. My fight or flight response has pretty much always been default-set to “flight.” I suspect that most people would rather flee than fisticuff, and I suspect that Shouty knew that.

The panhandling officially began when she walked up to my car and knocked on the window. I was illegally parked, so my first impulse was to roll down the window and explain that My Darling B was in the store returning something and would be back in just a minute. This wasn’t a bullshit line; I really was waiting outside a local Amazon store for B to drop off some stuff she bought that didn’t fit. But after noticing that she was not wearing the uniform of the parking enforcement unit, my next impulse was to ignore her.

She knocked on the window again. I frowned at her. She pointed down. I rolled the window down.

“What’s up?” I said, in what I hoped was a tone of voice that wouldn’t invite too much discussion, but was still respectfully dismissive if it turned out she was parking enforcement after all.

“Spare change?” she asked me.

Oh. I dug maybe a buck and a half in quarters out of the cupholder and held it out for her. In the past, this has resulted in the panhandler saying “thank you,” or some variation thereof, and departing.

Shouty did no such thing. She made the change disappear into a pocket and launched into her schtick: “I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM! I’M BEGGING YOU! I JUST NEED A ROOM TO SLEEP!”

I frowned at her. “I just gave you –”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM!”

“– and I just gave you –”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM! I JUST NEED TWENTY BUCKS!”

I don’t know if she meant I was supposed to give her the whole twenty bucks? If so, it was a badly calculated tactic. I’m sympathetic, generally speaking, but shouting at me is not the way to get my sympathy. In this particular situation, however, it did make me want to throw some more money at her to get her to go away.

Quickly digging my wallet out of my jacket pocket, I riffed through the bills looking for a fiver. No joy. Three ones, a ten and a twenty. Shouty wasn’t getting the twenty. On the other hand, three bucks didn’t seem like it was going to get her to bug out.

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

I pulled the tenner out and handed it over. She quickly made it disappear.

“I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS! I’M FUCKING TIRED! I JUST NEED A PLACE TO SLEEP!”

I made a “WTF?” face. “I just gave you ten bucks!”

“I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

I looked around. The parking lot was filled with people. “There’s lots of other people around you can ask!”

“I’VE BEEN ASKING AROUND ALL DAY! I’M FUCKING TIRED! I NEED A PLACE TO SLEEP AND I’M DOWN TWENTY DOLLARS!”

I locked eyes with her. “Go away now.”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

Not trying to tell anyone how to do her job, but I think a really good panhandler would have noticed that I was deeply, sincerely pissed at this point, as well as realized she had me backed into a corner. Pissed and cornered are not the feelings a good panhandler should inspire in her mark, in my opinion.

“Go. Away. NOW.”

She went away without another word, apparently satisfied with what she got out of me. Walked across the parking lot to the next occupied car and knocked on the window. The driver didn’t roll it down.

Reviewing the encounter in my head, I was surprised at how quickly she’d been able to get eleven bucks and change out of me by triggering a basic response buried in my lizard brain. Really very clever. Only works once, though.

begging | 8:45 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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