Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Panhandlin'

Sunny weekday afternoon, I've got my headphones in, walking with purpose along a busy sidewalk in the middle of proper downtown Portland. A small gaggle of young, homeless men sit on the sidewalk, nearly on the curb and well out of the officeworkers' way, with a couple cardboard signs in front of them, their black markers out to improve witty panhandling sayings they'll use on tourists all weekend.

One is standing over the rest, observing, and he looks up to see me coming. I set my jaw and keep walking, as he says, "Miss, do you happen to have -" and then he stops. Before I've passed him. He looks down, and now I am passing him by, totally ignoring him, my usual approach.

As I move past him, he says with a genuine shrug, "You know what, never mind. I want you to have a nice day!" It's not aggressive, it's nice and sounds totally natural; he may even be saying it to his buddies, rather than to me.

I don't keep my tunes turned up very loud when I'm walking; I want to hear buses and sirens and possible emergencies that might need my help, so I start to laugh, and turn around, but am still walking. I catch his eye and smile and chuckle. I look forward again and keep walking, and hear him say, "Yeah! There it is! A great smile!"

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